Mario A. Martinez, M.D.
- Liver cancer (Hepatocellular Carcinoma) can be caused by viral hepatitis. Viruses are unable to replicate without taking over the genetic material of the host cells. If the host cell survives the attack, its DNA will be damaged. If the stop codon on a gene is deleted by the virus, this can lead to run away cell division. Cancer is run away cell division.
- Kidney cancer (Renal Cell Carcinoma) tends to be a random event but it occurs more frequently in smokers.
- Colon cancer has a hereditary component. Low fiber diets and smoking have been shown to increase the risk for colon cancer as well. Screening colonoscopies are essential for early detection and treatment. Any patient over 50 years old with anemia should be screened for colon cancer.
- Prostate cancer occurs more frequently as a man ages. It is related to the decrease in testosterone level that most men experience as we age. This causes cellular replication within the prostate, and the prostate grows larger. There is an increased incidence of prostate cancer in smokers. Checking PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels and prostate ultrasounds are important for early detection. Prostate cancer in young men tends to be very aggressive and often deadly. Prostate cancer in older men tends to be easy to treat and rarely is the cause of death.
- Breast cancer is very concerning. In my practice, we detect more breast cancer than any other type of cancer. The numbers are alarming. Most of the cases are found by routine mammogram. Ladies, please get your annual mammograms if you are over 40. If a first degree relative (mother or sister) is diagnosed with breast cancer, you should get a mammogram 10 years prior to their age when they were first diagnosed.
- Cervical cancer is caused by the Human papillomavirus. Before viruses were discovered, doctors suspected there was an infectious process that caused cervical cancer in women. This was because if a man’s wife died of cervical cancer, his next wife often developed cervical cancer as well. The Pap smear was invented to detect premalignant cells on the cervix. Please stay current with your Pap smear. I recommend the Gardisil immunizations for both male and female patients of all ages if they are not in a long-term monogamous relationship.
- Thyroid cancer is one of the easiest cancers to treat and cure. There is a slight hereditary predisposition for developing it but it is mostly a random occurrence. It is usually detected by physical examination followed by ultra sound. Nodules on the thyroid gland tend to grow very slowly. Biopsies are usually only done when nodules are larger than 2 cm. If thyroid cancer is found, the thyroid is surgically removed. The patient is then given radioactive iodine, which is only absorbed by thyroid tissue. Any remaining thyroid tissue is destroyed by the radioactive iodine.
- Lung cancer is usually caused by smoking. Often, patients will state they quit smoking 10 or 15 years prior to the onset of lung cancer. Second hand smoke can also cause lung cancer. Lung cancer is usually caused by prolonged inhaling of some sort of toxic fumes or chemicals. Rarely, there is a hereditary condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that can cause lung cancer.
- Oral cancers and head and neck cancers are usually associated with tobacco use, either dipping or smoking. Poor oral hygiene increases the amount of time the tissue in the mouth is exposed to carcinogens. If you smoke or dip snuff, keep your mouth meticulously clean.
- Skin cancer is pretty simple to understand. The lighter your complexion is, the greater your risk of developing skin cancer. It is caused by extreme sun exposure over time. Skin cancer is usually not seen in young people. Squamous cell carcinoma usually occurs on body parts below the upper lip. Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs on body parts above the lip. Both types are usually cured by surgically removing the lesions. The lesions are usually dry, scaly patches that sometimes bleed and do not heal.
- Melanoma is a very aggressive type of skin cancer that can occur in young people. Although there is a hereditary predisposition for it, it can occur with or without a family history of it. Prolonged sun exposure increases the risk of it occurring as well. It often requires extensive surgery, sometimes even requiring skin flaps. Patients sometimes require chemotherapy. It aggressively metastasizes and is often deadly.
- Cancer is usually associated with weight loss without dieting. Picture the growing tumor as a parasite that is aggressively gobbling up your nutrients. Cancer is almost exclusively a disease of the elderly. Get your screening tests done as recommended, quit smoking, use sunscreen, and get routine lab work.