Under normal circumstances, cells in the body grow and reproduce in a controlled way via cell division. When a cell becomes old or damaged, it dies and a new healthy cell replaces it. During cell division, genes within the cell may become damaged, mismatched, lost or duplicated, which is known as a mutation. These mutations can change the process of producing new healthy cells, which can cause cells to reproduce and grow uncontrollably; this is known as cancer. These cancerous cells can invade healthy tissue and spread to other parts of the body. There are over 200 different types of cancer, each affecting different parts of the body1.
Who cancer affects:
Every year over 330,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer. It can occur at any age, but increasing age is a risk factor with over half (53%) of all cancers occurring in people aged 50‐74 years and more than a third (36%) diagnosed in people aged 75 or over2. The four most common types of cancer in the UK are breast, lung, prostate and bowel cancer1. In addition to age, cancer risk depends on a combination of our genes, environmental factors and certain lifestyle choices3.
Symptoms of cancer:
Those with cancer can often experience the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
Changes in taste or smell
Nausea and/or vomiting
Oral complications (mouth sores, difficulty swallowing)
Gastrointestinal disturbances (diarrhoea, constipation)
These symptoms can be caused by the cancer itself or as a result of treatment4.
Diet and Nutrition:
Cancer and its treatment often affects a person’s appetite; it can also affect how the body uses food. There is a greater risk of a person with cancer becoming malnourished if they are not able to get the nutrition they need. If a person becomes malnourished, it can affect their ability to receive or complete treatment and recover, which may result in a longer hospital stay5.