What is cancer and what causes it?
The term 'cancer' covers a range of different related diseases that can affect different parts of the body. In all cases, cancer is when cells in the body start to divide uncontrollably. In this process, more cells are created which are damaged and cancerous too. Over time these cancer cells build up and can form solid lumps, called tumours. They can also spread and infect other parts of the body too. Cancer cells can damage the parts of the body that they affect, stopping your body from being able to function normally.
Some cancers are more common in people living with HIV. This is because healthy immune systems often act to stop abnormal cell growth. If your immune system is weak, for example as a result of HIV, your body is less able to protect itself. For people living with HIV, taking antiretroviral treatment and keeping a healthy lifestyle helps to avoid cancer.
There are different treatments available for different cancers. Treatment works best when cancer is diagnosed early. You should talk to a healthcare worker about any health problems or changes in your body, and attend any screenings you are offered.
If you do develop cancer, the treatment given will depend on where the cancer is, the stage it is at and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
The most common treatments for cancer are:
a) surgery - where cancerous cells are removed in an operation
b) chemotherapy - where chemicals target cancer cells to stop them dividing
c) radiotherapy - where powerful X-rays are used to destroy cancer cells.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a life-long condition that affects how your body absorbs sugar from the food you eat. If you have diabetes, you have to do things to keep the amount of sugar in your blood steady, otherwise, it can become dangerously high.
Sugar (or glucose) is normally managed by a hormone that your body produces called insulin. There are two types of diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, your body's immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin, so you can't get enough insulin to manage your sugar levels. In type 2 diabetes, your body stops producing or responding to insulin in the right way. This means your sugar levels become too high. Both diabetes types are dangerous because having too much sugar in your blood can damage your nervous system, heart, eyes, kidneys as well as other parts of the body.
Keeping a healthy lifestyle, exercising, eating healthily, and if you're living with HIV, taking your antiretroviral treatment, can all reduce your risk of getting diabetes.
The symptoms of diabetes are:
a) feeling very thirsty
b) peeing a lot more than usual
c) feeling more tired
d) blurred vision
If you experience these symptoms you should speak to a healthcare worker.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease describes a collection of illnesses that affect the heart. Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or managed with a healthy lifestyle.
One of the most common problems affecting the heart is having narrow or blocked blood vessels. These are the tubes that move your blood around your body. Having narrow blood vessels puts pressure on your heart. Narrow or blocked blood vessels can cause:
a) heart attacks - where your heart can't pump blood and stops
b) strokes - where the blood supply to your brain is cut off
c) heart failure - where your heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.
These can be serious and life-threatening. Exercising, stopping smoking and cutting down on fatty foods are some of the best ways to keep your blood vessels healthy.
Other heart problems:
It's also possible to have problems with the muscles in the heart or the signals that control the rhythm of your heartbeat. People with abnormal heartbeats may feel a fluttering or discomfort in their chest, have problems breathing, feel dizzy or faint. Speak to a healthcare worker if you experience any of these symptoms. Keeping a healthy lifestyle can prevent some of these heart problems from developing too.