Cancer is the universal term for a set of related diseases. There are different kinds of this illness, affecting different parts of the body in a variety of ways. More than one hundred kinds of this disease are known today, all of which starting with the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells.
Normal cells differ from cancer cells in a way where the former grow, divide and die in an orderly manner while the latter continue to develop and form new, atypical cells that the body does not need. These abnormal cells do not die like they would if they were normal. Furthermore, these cells invade and grow into other tissues.
But how do these cells occur? Every cell in our body has deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that directs its actions. Damaged DNA is either repaired or killed if the cell is normal. Thus, when changes to the DNA of a normal cell arise and this cell’s DNA is damaged, it can neither be repaired nor killed. The faulty DNA proliferates and may even be passed on from parents to their children.
This disease may be caused by internal, external and lifestyle factors, or a combination of these acting together or in sequence. External factors include tobacco use, infectious organisms, and sun or ultraviolet (UV) exposure. Tobacco smoking damages the air sacs in the lungs, as well as the airways.
On the other hand, most skin cancers are a direct consequence of UV exposure, which may be through the sun or man-made sources like indoor tanning, welding and metal work and phototherapy.
On another note, research has proven that unhealthy diet and physical inactivity combined increases a person’s risk for developing cancer. In the United States, about one-third of deaths due to cancers are related to their lifestyle. Fortunately, it can be prevented by adopting a healthy diet and exercising daily.
Finally, a number of cancers run in certain families. Science has shown that it takes more than one gene mutation in a cell for the disease to occur. When a person inherited an atypical copy of a gene, it is easier and faster for more mutations to happen and become a malignancy. Genetics is one of the factors why some people have cancer earlier in life.
Interestingly, the earliest description of cancer, dating back to 1600 BC, says, “There is no treatment.” It was found in Edwin Smith Papyrus and illustrates what seems to be of the breast. Today, there are many known treatments to this disease including chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and different therapies such as hormone, immune, and targeted.
The treatment depends on the type and stage of the disease of the patient and potential side effects. Some need only one while most need a combination of treatments. Nowadays, clinical trials are becoming a popular option as well. These are research studies that involve people in order to understand what and how the disease can be treated.