What is Cancer??
Cancer is one of the most common diseases in
the developed world:
1 in 4 deaths are due to cancer
1 in 17 deaths are due to lung cancer
Lung cancer is the most common cancer in men
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in
There are more than 100 types of cancers; any
part of the body can be affected.
Tobacco use is the single largest
preventable cause of cancer in the world.
About 70% of all cancer deaths occur in
low- and middle-income countries.
Worldwide, the 5 most common types of
cancer that kill women are (in the order of
frequency): breast, lung, stomach,
colorectal and cervical.
The division of normal cells is precisely
controlled. New cells are only formed for growth
or to replace dead ones.
Cancerous cells divide repeatedly out of control
even though they are not needed, they crowd
out other normal cells and function abnormally.
They can also destroy the correct functioning of
What causes cancer?
Cancer arises from the mutation of a
Mutated genes that cause cancer are
It is thought that several mutations need to
occur to give rise to cancer
However, cancerous cells do not self
destruct and continue to divide rapidly
producing millions of new cancerous cells.
What causes cancer?
A factor which brings about a mutation is called
A mutagen is mutagenic.
Any agent that causes cancer is called a
carcinogen and is described as carcinogenic.
So some mutagens are carcinogenic.
Symptoms of cancer
The first sign of cancer is a symptom. There are many different
signs that a person may have cancer.
A few of the more common symptoms of cancer include:
swelling or lumps in certain parts of the body, such as
the abdomen or neck
problems with walking or balance
Diagnosis of cancer
Many types of tests are used to diagnose cancer:
Biopsies -- A biopsy is usually the only way to tell for sure whether you have
cancer or not. The doctor cuts out a small piece of tissue and sends
it to laboratory to be studied.
Imaging tests-- These tests or evaluation procedures produce pictures of
areas inside the body. They include x-rays, like mammograms, computed
tomography (CT or CAT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Laboratory tests-- A laboratory technician measures substances in the
bloodor urine that can indicate how advanced the cancer is or other features of your
Genomics tests -- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), fluorescent in situ
hybridization (FISH), and other genomics tests (tests of genes and their
functions) can find mutations (unusual changes) in certain genes that are
known to cause cancer.
The Development of Cancer
There are three phases of development
involved in the formation of cancerous
The first stage consists of a mutation of
DNA which does not undergo DNA repair
(by enzymes) or undergoes faulty DNA
The Development of Cancer
The second step is promotion which
involves an action promoting the
uncontrolled growth and proliferation of
mutated cells. In time these cells loose
their normal abilities and just reproduce.
The third step is metastasis. This is the
invasion of cancerous cells into nearby
tissues as well as the migration of
cancerous cells to other tissues via
circulatory or transport systems.
Types of cancer treatment
There are four standard methods of treatment for cancer: surgery,
chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and biologic therapy.
Methods of Treatment for Cancer
Surgery can be used to prevent, treat, stage (determine
how advanced the cancer is), and diagnose cancer. In relation to
cancer treatment, surgery is done to remove tumors or as much of the
cancerous tissue as possible. It is often performed in conjunction with
chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
For those whose cancer is not treatable, palliative surgery
may be an option to relieve pain that may be caused by the cancer.
Palliative surgery is not intended to treat or cure the cancer, or even to
prolong life, but more to lessen discomfort.
Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that
uses of drugs to eliminate cancer cells. Unlike surgery, chemotherapy
affects the entire body, not just a specific part. It works by targeting
rapidly multiplying cancer cells. Unfortunately, other types of cells in our
bodies also multiply at high rates, like hair follicle cells and the cells that
line our stomachs. This is why chemo can cause side effects like hair
loss and an upset stomach.
Chemotherapy is most commonly given by pill or
intravenously (IV), but can be given in other ways. A single type of
chemotherapy, or a combination of drugs, may be prescribed for a
specific length of time. Like surgery, chemotherapy can be prescribed
alone, in conjunction with radiation therapy or biologic therapy.
Radiation therapy uses certain types of energy to shrink tumors
or eliminate cancer cells. It works by damaging a cancer cell's DNA,
making it unable to multiply. Cancer cells are highly sensitive to radiation
and typically die when treated. Nearby healthy cells can be damaged as
well, but are resilient and are able to fully recover.
Radiation therapy may be given alone, along with chemotherapy,
and/or with surgery. The decision to combine radiation therapy with other
types of treatment depends on the stage of cancer and other factors.
BIOLOGIC OR TARGETED THERAPY:
Biologic therapy is a term for drugs that target
characteristics of cancerous tumors. Some types of targeted therapies
work by blocking the biological processes of tumors that allow tumors to
thrive and grow. Other types of therapies cut off the blood supply to the
tumor, causing it to basically starve and die because of a lack of blood.
Targeted therapy is used in select types of cancer and is not
available for everyone. It is given in conjunction with other cancer
Research studies of the latest drugs and therapies
against many types of cancer are continuously being conducted. This
type of research requires human volunteers to test the safety and
effectiveness of new therapies. Volunteers must meet the criteria of each
study to participate.
Cancer prevention is easier than you think. With a few simple
lifestyle changes, you can drastically reduce your risk of many types
Avoid Smoking and Exposure to Smoke.
Practice Sun Safety and Recognize When Skin Changes Occur.
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies.
Limit Red Meat and Animal Fat.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake.
Know Your Personal and Family Medical History.
Practice Safe Sex.
Get Screened for Cancer Regularly.