What is Lupus Cancer: 5 Key Insights You Need to Know

Roman poet Virgil said, “The greatest wealth is health.” To put it into words, health is a state of biological, social, and emotional prosperity. To be healthy, doesn’t only mean being physically fit, but also incorporates the potential to live a fulfilling life. Read on to take a closer look at what Lupus cancer is.

Talking about physical well-being, many people suffer from various health issues, some acute and some chronic. Some have a permanent cure, while some last until death. Some are regular and common infections, while some cases are a hundred in a million.

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1. Chronic Diseases: An Overview

chronic diseases
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Long-term medical complications that usually progress steadily and remain for an extended period, are termed chronic diseases. These diseases generally have a major effect on one’s health, quality of living, and altogether well-being. Common examples include heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, respiratory diseases such as asthma, as well as certain mental issues like anxiety and depression.

The treatments for such disorders usually require a change in lifestyle, dietary changes, continual medication, and regular exercise. If left unattended, chronic diseases lead to adverse disorders and complications. Besides having a significant effect on one’s health, they are also deemed to be a burden, as they require high healthcare costs while being less productive. Early detection, prevention, and effective management are necessary for treating chronic diseases while emphasizing the need for regular check-ups, and healthy lifestyles.

2. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or better known as Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder that is capable of affecting multiple organs and systems within the human body. In this disease, the body’s immune system mistakenly starts attacking the healthy tissue in several parts of the body. The symptoms usually vary from individual to individual, which may be faint to severe.

There is no clear evidence for the causes of Lupus, but it is believed to be genetic, hormonal, and sometimes environmental. Pregnant women are more likely to be affected, however, Lupus can infect people of all ages and ethnicities. Common symptoms of Lupus include swollen joints, chest pain, hair loss, feeling tired, and developing a red rash on the face .

2.1. Symptoms and Causes

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The symptoms of Lupus vary in severity and usually come and go over time. Also, these symptoms don’t necessarily indicate Lupus, as the symptoms are similar to other diseases, which is why proper assessment by a medical professional is advised for accurate diagnosis of the disease and its apt management.

Common symptoms include: resolute exhaustion that doesn’t go away with rest, swelling of multiple joints, and lymph nodes, a butterfly-shaped rash across the face is a characteristic feature of Lupus, and other rashes due to sensitivity towards sunlight might also occur,  fevers that occur without any apparent reason, fingers and toes when exposed to cold temperature might turn blue or white, ulcers in the mouth and nose, and various other neurological symptoms.

Talking about the causes, there is no exact cause discovered, although researchers believe the causes to be a mixture of genetics, environment, and hormonal. Some significant factors that develop the disease are: certain genetic orientation or mutations might make an individual capable of being affected by SLE or Lupus, hormones like estrogen is believed to develop the disease in females, especially during the childbearing age, environmental factors like sunlight exposure, may trigger SLE, and abnormalities in the human system is a characteristic feature of SLE.

As Lupus is an autoimmune disease, the immune system starts attacking the normal cells of the body and such a dysfunction usually triggers the disease. It is also important to know that not everyone with these symptoms is a Lupus patient. Studies regarding the network between hormones, environment, and genetics are still being carried on. One of the most important aspects is, that this disease isn’t contagious and cannot be transmitted to one another.

2.2. How to Diagnose?

The diagnosis of Lupus can many times be tricky as the symptoms are varied and overlapping, which can also be due to other conditions. Diagnosis for Lupus generally includes laboratory tests, clinical evaluation, and assessment of one’s medical history. Some commonly used diagnostic methods are: physical assessment and evaluation of medical history by a medical professional to look for any kind of signs indicating SLE such as rashes, swollen joints, blood tests like the Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA) to look for the antibodies that are destroying the cell nuclei, Complete Blood Count (CBC) to count the number of RBCs, WBCs, and Platelets, tests for the Kidney and Liver functions,  Anti-dsDNA and Anti-Sm Antibody Tests to detect antibodies working against double-stranded DNA and Smith Antigens, ESR and CRP are carried out to check for the levels of inflammation in the body.

Additionally, in some cases, a simple kidney or skin tissue can be inspected under a microscope to detect changes due to the presence of Lupus. Also, depending on the individual’s symptoms, certain examinations such as X-ray and ultrasound might be conducted. There is no definitive test designed for the detection of SLE, and the diagnosis majorly relies on clinical assessment, symptoms, and laboratory outcomes. Specialists experienced in autoimmune diseases like a Rheumatologist are usually involved in the management of SLE.

2.3. Treatment

As there is no permanent cure yet developed for the prevention of Lupus, the treatment of SLE aims at preventing flares, reducing organ damage, and controlling its symptoms. The specific management plan differs from individual to individual based on the severity of symptoms and overall well-being.

2.3.1. Few Common Approaches to Managing Sle

Medications such as Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs to relieve inflammation and pain in the joints, Corticosteroids like prednisone used to suppress the immune system doing blowups, Antimalarial drugs to help reduce rashes and relieve fatigue, Immunosuppressants might be prescribed to subdue the immune system and control more critical symptoms.

Additionally, changes in one’s lifestyle are a method to reduce symptoms and include regular exercising, an equal amount of rest, a well-balanced diet, and sun protection. Regular medical check-ups are also advised to check for symptoms and changes in the body and proper management if any unusual behaviour is detected.

It is also important to provide mental support to Lupus patients to help them cope with the emotional and psychological effects of the disorder. Treatment for SLE is designed as per an individual’s symptoms and may require a multilayered approach comprising rheumatologists, dermatologists, nephrologists, and other professionals if required.

3. Understanding Cancer

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The division and uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells forming tumours in the body is said to be Cancer. Cancer is a complex and devastating medical condition leading to a large number of deaths across the globe, and affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. Cancer is known to occur in various parts of the body, be it the breast or the prostate, and can spread to other organs by metastasis.

The factors causing cancer are multiple, can be a genetic mutation, exposure to carcinogens, or certain infections such as hepatitis. To prevent cancer and cure it completely, early detection is necessary which has been now made possible with advancements in the healthcare industry. Cancer treatment depends on individual symptoms, stages, and types. They may include chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, or a combination of multiple treatment analyses.

3.1. Types of Cancer

types of cancer
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Various types of cancer affect different organs and tissues of the body. The most common types include breast cancer which majority of the time affects women, but in a few cases occurs in men too, lung cancer which is often associated with smokers but can also affect non-smokers, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer which occurs only in men, skin cancer which usually develops due to exposure to UV radiation, ovarian cancer in females, cancer in the pancreas, leukaemia which affects the bone marrow, and brain tumours that affect the brain and spinal cord which control the functions of the body. There are also several other kinds of cancer having different variations. Early detection is the best way to prevent the adverse effects of the disease.

3.2. Causes

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Cancer is often caused by the interplay of multiple factors such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Although the exact cause of the disease differs from person to person based on the type, here are some common factors that cause cancer: changes in specific genes increase the risk of cancer which is either inherited or might occur spontaneously during a person’s lifetime, exposure to substances such as asbestos, certain chemicals, infections like, HPV and hepatitis increase the risk of cancer, certain habits such as the use of tobacco, alcohol consumption, being obese might also lead to cancer.

As a person grows older, the ability to repair damaged DNA decreases, which results in increasing the risk of cancer. Sometimes hormonal factors also lead to the development of certain types of cancers. It is also essential to know that having a risk factor doesn’t necessarily mean the development of cancer. The various factors contribute to one’s susceptibility to cancer.

3.3. Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of cancer involves a complete assessment of one’s medical history, physical examination, and different laboratory tests. While management usually varies depending on the suspected type and the location of cancer, here are some common approaches to diagnose the disease: performing a physical examination to detect any kind of abnormality, assessment of medical records to look for any risks of developing the condition, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs to detect the tumours and determine their location and size, blood tests, biopsy, and molecular testing. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, further tests to determine the specific characteristics are conducted.

The treatment generally depends upon the type, stage, and individual features of the condition.

Some common treatment procedures include:

  • Surgical removal of cancerous tumours to prevent further growth,
  • Chemotherapy to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, which is either given orally, intravenously, or directly into the affected area,
  • Hormone therapy for hormone-based cancers,
  • Radiation therapy uses high radiation to kill cancer cells,
  • Stem cell transplantation to replace damaged stem cells with healthy ones to help the bone marrow produce blood cells again,
  • Palliative care helps patients deal with the symptoms and helps individuals with metastatic cancer.

The treatment team includes oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, and other professionals collaborating to provide the most effective solution.

4. Is Lupus Actually a Type of Cancer?

Lupus is not a form of cancer. Although they are both serious and complex medical conditions, they are not similar. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that attacks the normal cells of the body, causing inflammation, and damage in multiple organs and systems of the body. It usually affects the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, and skin and the exact cause is yet to be discovered.

On the other hand, cancer refers to the unrestrained growth of abnormal cells in the body, leading to the formation of tumours that affect multiple organs of the body and can spread to other tissues and organs. The causes of cancer can be genetic, hormonal, or exposure to carcinogens.

While both are distinct diseases, lupus patients have a slightly increased risk of developing cancer in certain organs. This elevated risk can be due to genetic abnormalities, immune system disorders, and possibly certain medications used in treating lupus. Lupus patients need to have regular check-ups to detect any unusual behaviour and cancer screenings for early detection of the disease to prevent its growth.

5. How Does Lupus Risk the Development of Cancer?

lupus risks cancer
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Lupus is an autoimmune disease and is not directly involved in increasing the risk of cancer in people. However, researchers have suggested a potential link between lupus patients developing cancer. One of the largest studies suggests that the risk of developing cancer in the early stages of lupus is more probable but there are no precise facts about the relation between cancer and lupus, yet. Here are some certain types of cancers that might occur in lupus patients.

5.1. Lupus and Lymphoma

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There is a known association between lupus and an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which is a type of blood cancer, although the overall risk of developing lymphoma is less in lupus patients.

Studies have indicated that people with lupus have a higher risk of developing NHL than the general population, and the factors include immune dysfunction as SLE is an autoimmune disease, prolonged inflammation promotes the growth of cancer cells, and certain medications used to treat lupus can potentially be responsible for elevating the risk of Lymphoma. Regular check-ups and proper cancer screenings are important for patients with lupus to detect any potential complications and provide appropriate management.

5.2. Lupus and Lung Cancer

lung cancer
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There is some proof regarding the association between lupus and the risk of developing lung cancer. However, the chances are relatively low.

Factors that lead to developing the risk of lung cancer include smoking which is a primary cause of lung cancer as it is found that people with lupus have higher rates of smoking than the general population, and the combination of smoking and lupus is likely to increase the risk of developing lung cancer, chronic inflammation leads to growth of cancer cells and certain medications such as immunosuppressant drugs might increase the risk of lung cancer in individuals. It is important for lupus patients to strictly avoid smoking and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

5.3. Lupus and Cervical Cancer

Women with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus are likely to develop cervical cancer, although the risk remains low. Factors that contribute are a common sexually transmitted disease, HPV, which is strongly associated with cervical cancer, immunodeficiency, and certain medications that can weaken the immune system increasing the risk of cervical cancer. To prevent the risks, women with lupus must follow standard prevention methods such as getting vaccinated for HPV, Regular cervical screenings, and practising safe sex to reduce the risk of transmission of HPV.

6. Conclusion

Regardless of the increased risk of cancer in lupus patients, there is proof that they are less likely to go under cancer screenings than the general population. Hence, it is important to discuss with a medical professional the relationship between lupus and cancer for proper management.

Additionally, lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, and exposure to immunosuppressive medications increase the risks of cancer and thus should be avoided. People with lupus also should avoid direct sunlight whenever possible to prevent skin cancer.

Last Updated on December 25, 2023 by