What Is Cancer?

Cancer is not just one but a group of many related diseases that takes place when the growth of the cells are not normal and spread very rapidly. Normal body cells grow and divide to make more cells only when the body needs them. But cancer cells are different.

  • Cancer cells have gene mutations that turn the cell from a normal cell into a cancer cell.
  • A cancer cell doesn’t act like a normal cell. It starts to grow and divide out of control instead of dying when it should.
  • Cancer cells usually group or clump together to form tumours and a growing tumour becomes a lump of cancer cells that can destroy the normal cells around the tumour and damage the body’s healthy tissues.
  • As cancer cells divide, a tumour will develop and grow. Cancer cells have the same needs as normal cells. As a tumour grows, it needs more blood to bring oxygen and other nutrients to the cancer cells. The cancer cells send signals for a tumour to make new blood vessels.
  • When tumours grow and get bigger. It also leads cancer cells to get into the blood and spread more easily to other parts of the body which is called metastasis.

Carcinoma

Cancer that starts from tissues that form an organ such as skin, lung, liver, breast, intestine, breast, cervix, ovary, etc.

Brain and spinal cord cancers

Leukaemia

Cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as bone marrow or more commonly known as cancers of the blood cells

Lymphoma and myeloma

Cancers that starts in the cells of the immune system

Sarcoma

Cancer that starts in the connective tissues such as bone, cartilage, muscle, fat or blood vessels.

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What are the types of cancer?

What causes cancer?

Cancer cells are a result of errors occur during cell division or because of damaged DNA caused by environmental exposures. Till date, we are still unable to pinpoint an exact cause of cancer, but there are plenty of studies and researches that support certain risk factors that may increase the chances of developing cancer.

The strongest association to the direct cause of cancer are cancer-causing substances such as:

  • Chemicals in tobacco smoke
  • Radiation such as ultraviolet sun rays
  • Air pollution
  • Chemicals from the workplace such as asbestos, benzene, formaldehyde, wood dust, etc.

Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Alcohol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Dietary habit
  • Infections
  • HPV (human papillomavirus)
  • Hormones
  • Inherited genes and etc.

What Are The Stages Of Cancer?

Stage 0
Abnormal cells in an area of body and may develop into cancer in future, also known as Carcinoma In Situ.

Stage 1
Cancer is relatively small and contained within the organ it started.

Stage 2
Cancer has not spread into surrounding tissues but cancer cells may have spread into lymph nodes close to the tumour.

Stage 3
Cancer may have spread to surrounding tissues and lymph nodes in the area.

Stage 4
Cancer has spread from where it started to another organ. This is also known as secondary or metastatic cancer.

Cancer Research UK

Reference: Cancer Research UK, Retrieved (21 July 2017), Cancer Research UK

Staging describes the size of a cancer and how far it has grown. It is important because it provides valuable information for doctors in coming up with a treatment plan and to determine whether the treatment should involve a course of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or a combination of the three.

What is the treatment for cancer?

Cancer is usually treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or sometimes a combination of these treatments. The choice of treatment depends on the type of cancer you have and the stage of the tumour.

Surgery

is a procedure which is performed by an experienced surgeon that removes the growth of cancer from your body.

Chemotherapy

is the use of anti-cancer medicines to treat cancer. The medicines are sometimes taken as a pill, but usually, are given through a special intravenous line.

Radiotherapy

is a treatment where radiation is used to kill cancer cells. There are many different ways you can have radiotherapy, but they all work in a similar way. They damage cancer cells and stop them from growing or spreading in the body.

Targeted Therapies

are drugs or other elements that block the development and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules (“molecular targets”) that are involved in the growth, progression and spread of cancer. At times, targeted therapy is called “molecularly targeted drugs,” “molecularly targeted therapies,” “precision medicines,” or similar names. Treatment with these drugs is called targeted therapy.

Immunotherapy

is a form of cancer treatment that uses or helps your immune system to fight cancer. It is a type of biological therapy and this type of treatment uses substances made from living organisms to treat cancer. The main forms of immunotherapy now being used to treat cancer include:

Radiosurgery (SBS)

is a treatment where radiation is used to kill cancer cells. There are many different ways you can have radiotherapy, but they all work in a similar way. They damage cancer cells and stop them from growing or spreading in the body.

Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT)

are drugs or other elements that block the development and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules (“molecular targets”) that are involved in the growth, progression and spread of cancer.

Hormone Therapy

Is a form of cancer treatment that uses or helps your immune system to fight cancer. It is a type of biological therapy and this type of treatment uses substances made from living organisms to treat cancer.