What is cancer?
Cells are the basic units that make up the human body. This means that every part of the human body, every organ is made up of cells. These cells grow and divide to make new cells whenever the body needs them and once a cell gets too old or damaged, it dies and a new cell takes its place. In abnormal situations, a cell can start to grow uncontrollably when genetic changes interfere with the normal orderly growth process, what is commonly referred to as cancer.
These cells may form a mass called a tumor which can be benign, meaning that the tumor can grow but will not spread to other body parts. In some other cases, a cancerous tumor can become malignant, meaning that it begins to grow rapidly and spread to other parts of the body.
Some types of cancer do not form a tumor. These include leukemias, most types of lymphoma, and myeloma.
Causes of Cancer
Some are caused by things people do or expose themselves to. For example, tobacco use can cause cancer of the lungs, mouth, throat, bladder, kidneys, and many other organs. Of course, not everyone who uses tobacco will get cancer, but it greatly increases a person’s risk. It increases their chance of developing heart and blood vessel disease, too.
Spending a lot of time in the sun without protection can cause skin cancer. Melanoma is a very serious form of skin cancer linked to UV light from the sun and tanning beds.
Exposure to radiation or chemicals.
Radiation can cause cancer. For instance, people exposed to nuclear fallout have a higher risk than those who were not exposed. Sometimes, radiation treatment for one type of cancer can cause another cancer to grow many years later. This is why doctors and dentists use the lowest possible doses of radiation for x-rays and scans (much lower than the doses used for cancer treatment).
Certain chemicals have been linked to cancer, too. Being exposed to or working with them can increase a person’s risk.
About 5% to 10% of all cancers are linked to genes
that are inherited from parents.
What are the risk factors for cancer?
A risk factor is anything that can increase your chance of getting a disease.
Having one risk factor, or even many, does not mean that someone will get cancer. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop the disease, while others who do develop cancer have no known risk factors.
Some of the major cancer risk factors that can be controlled:
- Tobacco use
- Consuming diet made of processed food, red meat, fat etc
- Physical inactivity
- Being overweight or obese
- Alcohol use
- Excessive exposure to sunlight
- Environmental exposures, such as lead and asbestos
- Exposure to infections such as hepatitis, HPV, and HIV
It is best to detect cancer while it’s small and before it spreads. Adults should have regular tests called cancer screening tests. These tests help health care providers find common cancers before they cause symptoms. For example, regular screening can find cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, cervix, mouth, and skin early. It can be easier to treat if found early. Early detection also increases the likelihood of survival.
So, talk to a health care provider about which screening tests might be right for you.
Below are examples of approaches to cancer treatment:
- Chemotherapy: this is the use of medications to kill cancerous cells by targeting rapidly dividing cells. The drugs can also help shrink tumors, but the side effects can be severe.
- Hormone therapy: this involves taking medications that change how certain hormones function. The drugs can also interfere with the body\’s ability to produce certain hormones that play a significant role in the onset of the cancer as seen in prostate and breast cancers.
- Immunotherapy: this involve the use of and other treatments to boost the immune system and encourage it to fight cancerous cells. Two examples of these treatments ar checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive cell transfer.
- Surgery is often a part of a treatment plan when a person has a cancerous tumor. Also, a surgeon may remove lymph nodes to reduce or prevent the disease\’s spread.
- Radiation therapy uses high-dose radiation to kill cancerous cells. Also, a doctor may recommend using radiation to shrink a tumor before surgery or reduce tumor-related symptoms.
- Targeted therapies perform functions within cancerous cells to prevent them from multiplying. They can also boost the immune system. Two examples of these therapies are small-molecule drugs and monoclonal antibodies.
- Stem cell transplant can be especially beneficial for people with blood-related cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma. It involves removing cells, such as red or white blood cells, that chemotherapy or radiation has destroyed. Lab technicians then strengthen the cells and put them back into the body.
- Precision medicine, or personalized medicine, is a newer, developing approach. It involves using genetic testing to determine the best treatments for a person\’s particular presentation of cancer. Researchers have yet to show that it can effectively treat all types of cancer, however.
Doctors will often employ more than one type of treatment to maximize effectiveness.
Do not neglect regular check-ups as they go a long way in cancer management.
Breast cancer has grown to become one of the most common cancers in Nigeria and early detection can save lives. You can carry out regular checks on yourself and if you notice any abnormality, you should consult your doctor immediately.
You could read more here https://pharm.com.ng/infectious-diseases/cervical-cancer-and-hpv-what-women-should-know/
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