• What Is Cancer?
|What Is Cancer?
Cancer is the overgrowth of abnormal cells in the body. Normal cells reproduce when the body needs them and die when they are old or damaged. Cancer cells ignore these rules and their only aim appears to be to grow and expand as quickly as possible. When they clump together they form a tumor or 'growth'. By expanding without control, cancer cells upset the body's natural status quo; they have the ability to attack adjoining healthy cells spreading disruption. Cancer cells which find their way into the blood stream or lymph system can spread to other parts of the body. This process is known as metastasis. Underneath a microscope cancer cells look different to healthy cells. This is why a biopsy (examining a piece of suspected tissue underneath a microscope) is required for a cancer diagnosis. Cancer tumors can form on any tissue in the body but they more commonly develop in major organs like the breasts, skin, stomach, lungs or womb.
Tumors can be benign or cancerous. Benign tumors occur when non-cancerous older cells live longer than they should or are not disposed of quickly enough. This causes them to pile up, common examples include warts, freckles or ovarian cysts. If the buildup however occurs as a result of cells being reproduced too quickly (cancer), then this is when the problems start to occur. Cancer cells are like parasites that crowd normal cells out, they devour nutrients and work less efficiently than normal cells. Normal cells stick to their own body area, cancer cells on the other hand pay little attention to borders. Even when benign cells push against normal cells for space, they still respect boundaries. When cancer cells penetrate other body parts and take over those cells this is known as invasive cancer.Cancer Explained
One in four families in America is affected by cancer. It is one of the most investigated diseases in modern society and reports are published on an almost daily basis on causes, medications and cancer prevention techniques. However, in spite of consumer awareness the rate of breast and lung cancer continues to rise. In fact, one in 8 women is at risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 80. The rate of lung cancer also continues to increase despite us knowing the effects of smoking. This highlights the continued importance of education, not only for prevention, but to make people aware of the symptoms so they seek help. Early detection usually offers the best chances of survival. Nearly half of cancers can be found through self-examination and screening. In fact the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that the 5 year survival rate of early detected cancers is close to 95 percent. In other words, 'survival' and 'cancer' can go together quite comfortably. Early discovery of breast cancer for example leads to a 96 percent survival rate. Of course, naturally despite this, the diagnosis, 'YOU HAVE CANCER' still instills enormous fear, confusion and shock in patients. If you do receive a diagnosis, your doctors will start by discussing treatment options with you. You may also need to do a little research yourself because there is rarely one obvious choice. Having a clear understanding of your lifestyle goals will help you through this difficult period.
Cancer causes: Scientists still do not know what causes cancer. Most researchers now believe that there is not one cause but many causes related to cell reproduction. Every cell has 23 pairs of chromosomes which contains millions of genes. These genes contain DNA which is the genetic blueprint that tells the cell how to develop and what to do. If there is a mutation in one of those genes it can cause the cell to change or mutate into a cancer cell. Over a person's lifetime certain identified environmental factors like smoking and exposure to sunlight can 'hit' the body and cause damage to our genetic makeup. Gradually, the more 'hits' the body receives the more vulnerable the cell becomes and more prone to mutating and turning cancerous. This is why older people are more likely to develop cancer - they have been exposed to more 'hits' over a greater period of time. Factors which promote cancer include:
• Breast Cancer
The signs of cancer vary depending on the type of cancer present and it's location. As cancer grows it will start to inflict some change on the body. This could be a lump in the breast (breast cancer), blood in the stool (colon cancer) or shortness of breath (lung cancer). A sign is something that can be detected by a doctor, such as a lump, whereas a symptom is something that the woman feels, such as fatigue or pain. The following however is a list of cancer symptoms which appear in most cancer patients:
The first stage of diagnosing cancer involves the doctor performing a physical examination and taking a patient’s medical history. Additional information can come from medical tests. These include:
Early detection and diagnosis of cancer can make a significant difference in the life span of an individual. This is why screening tests like a Pap smear test and mammogram's are so important.
Treatment for cancer depends on the type of cancer and the stage it has reached. Generally speaking there are 3 types of cancer treatments:
Cure: Where treatment can cure the cancer outright so that it does not return. This is often the case with skin cancer, breast, colon and lung cancers. See, also: what does cancer remission mean?
The most common types of cancer treatment are:
Surgery: Cancer surgery is normally elective not emergency. In other words the patient has time to choose the procedure. The general aim of surgery is to remove a tumor. See also, cancer surgery recovery.
How Cancers Differ
Ok, so we know that cancer spreads wildly and corrupts healthy cells. But how does it actually kill a person? There are 3 main ways that cancer can kill:
Research shows that there are certain risk factors that make a person more likely to develop cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute these are:
• Aging. Most cancers occur in people over 65.
Protect yourself by staying away from known risk factors. Those who are concerned can order a cancer risk analysis which includes a complete genetic testing. These plans are costly, around $6,000 and are not covered by most insurance plans.
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