cancer-logoCancer is one of the deadliest diseases that is affecting the people around the world for various reasons. According to a report from the American Cancer Society that was published in 2018, there were more than 15 million people living in the United States alone that were affected by cancer. The number of people in the world living with cancer has increased since the last decade.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is not a single disease, but it is the group of diseases that cause abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. These abnormal cells are called cancerous cells and have the ability to spread to other healthy parts of the body. Also, the lifespan of these cells increases as compared to healthy cells. This results in the replacement of healthy cells of the body with the abnormal cells, and make a person sick.

So, how a cell become cancerous from a healthy cell?

A healthy cell becomes cancerous when its genes are somehow mutated or altered due to some reason. There are various mutations that need to happen to make a healthy cell into a cancerous cell. But our body has a defense mechanism against cancer. When a cell alters its genes, it is detected by the immune system and is destroyed. There are various series of mutations that can make a cell abnormal. When the right series of mutations happen in the right condition, the abnormal cell growth will happen quickly without being noticed by the immune system. This results in the spread of cancer which is out of control of the body and the person become sick.

Types of Cancer

There around 200 different types of cancer that are related to different parts of the body. These types of cancer are named after the part of the body in which they happen and grow. For example, cancer in the breast is called breast cancer.

The most common types of cancer throughout the world are:

  • Lung Cancer – This type of cancer happen in the lungs and is mostly caused by smoking. However, there are also other causes of lung cancer, such as polluted air.
  • Breast Cancer – This type of cancer is very common in women as compared to men, and mostly happen in glands which are responsible for making milk.
  • Colon Cancer – This type of cancer happens in the large intestine which is the last part of the digestive
  • Leukemia – It is the type of cancer that directly affects the bone marrow and red blood cells.
  • Lymphoma – It happens in white blood cells, called lymphocytes, which fight with foreign harmful microbes. Lymphocytes are also found in lymph nodes, thymus, bone marrow, and spleen. So, this type of cancer is spread to these parts and some other parts of the body.
  • Melanoma – This type of cancer happens in the cells that carry melanin pigment. These cells give color to our skin and are also found in eyes, mouth, and hair. The common cause of melanoma is long term exposure to sunlight or radiations on the skin.
  • Thyroid Cancer – Thyroid is a gland which is located in the front of the neck. This type of cancer happens in thyroid and results in disturbance of metabolism and production of certain hormones.

Causes

There is a large number of causes that can lead to cancer. But many causes of cancer can be prevented. For example, smoking increase the chances of lung cancer significantly, so preventing from smoking will reduce lung cancer chances.

Here are the common factors that play a part in all types of cancer:

  • Overweight of the body
  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Smoking and air pollution
  • Lack of necessary nutrition in the body
  • Lack of physical activities, such as exercise.

These common factors increase the chances of getting cancer, but they all are preventable. So, following a healthy lifestyle is necessary to reduce the chances of getting cancer. However, there are some causes that are very difficult to prevent, some of which are exposure to sunlight, x-rays, air pollution, skin therapy with laser etc.

Treatment

Recent advancements in technology have opened new possibilities to get rid of cancer, or at least reduce its effects. There are three main types of cancer treatment; Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy, and Surgery. It depends on the type and severity of cancer to receive any one of these treatments or all three types of treatment.

Let’s discuss the treatments of cancer in detail.

  • Chemotherapy – This type of treatment uses medicines to destroy the cancerous cell in the body. The medicines used in this treatment mostly target to those cells which divide quickly, because quickly dividing is one of the signs of cancerous cells. Chemotherapy has very severe side-effects and may cause kidney failure. Also, it kills healthy cells of the body to some extent along with cancerous cells.
  • Radiation Therapy – In this therapy, a higher dose of high-energy radiation is targeted to cancerous part of the body to destroy cancerous cells. Radiation therapy is also used to reduce the size of the tumor.
  • Surgery – Sometimes cancer is located in certain parts of the body and can be removed by performing surgery of that part. The surgeon will remove cancer physically to eliminate cancer completely to prevent it from spreading.

Facts

  • Smoking and chewing tobacco are one of the major causes of mouth, thyroid, and lung cancer in the developing world; India and other Asian countries.
  • Genetics also play a part in cancer. Around 5% cases of cancer have been found to be caused by inherited genetic mutations from the parent.
  • 22% percent of deaths due to cancer are caused by tobacco smoking and chewing.

Cite this Page

Abdul Wahab, "Cancer," in Science4Fun, May 28, 2019, http://science4fun.info/cancer/.