Cancer is a disease that begins with the formation or growth of abnormal cells within the body. An individual’s body contains trillions of cells that function in different ways. Typically, the human cells will undergo cell division to produce new cells. But, when the normal body cells refuse to follow the normal cell division process, they may become cancerous cells.
However, studies have shown that cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally. Cancer originates with the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells, which are capable of destroying the healthy cells in the body. They often invade or spread to other parts of the body. Furthermore, researchers and oncologists have made progress in their study of cancer prevention, screening, and treatment. The progress serves as a significant relief to the global community as the survival rate rises.
What are cancer cells?
This section will inform you why cancer can be a burden and a challenge to your well-being. When abnormal cells grow in your body, they may form tumors (tissue lumps). Cancer cells are known as malignant tumors (cancerous tumors). They possess the ability to invade the nearby tissues and can move endlessly and fast to the other part of the body to form a new tumor.
Furthermore, the process of these cells invading the tissues and forming a new tumor is known as metastasis. Studies suggest that the most familiar cancer cells often present in solid form, but there is an exception to blood cancer.
However, you should also know that some tumors may not be cancerous (benign). These cells grow abnormally too, but cannot invade other and nearby tissues. Although, a benign tumor can be life-threatening when it grows in some areas like the brain. The relief point is that when benign tumor gets removed by oncologists, they don’t grow back.
Symptoms of cancer
When a cell starts growing abnormally in the body, you might notice some changes in your body. However, the symptoms may differ and can grow from mild to severe. Reach out to your doctor for immediate investigation and proper management. Some general symptoms may point toward cancerous cells in the body. But, these symptoms might not be specific to cancer only. These include but are not limited to;
- Unexplainable fatigue
- Noticeable changes on the skin such as skin turning yellowish or dark
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Muscle or joint pain
- Persistent bleeding
- Noticeable lumps.
Characteristics of cancerous cell
Cancer cells often exhibit different characteristics from normal body cells. It often ignores cell death’s normal process (apoptosis or programmed cell death). These cells refuse to respect the cell death signals and continue to grow even with no growth signal. Furthermore, malignant tumors can make your immune system protect them and stay alive. It will make the cancerous cells inhibit the normal functioning ability of normal body cells.
In addition, malignant tumors can dictate to the blood vessels to provide the tumors with nutrients and oxygen, thereby blocking supplies to the normal body cells. These cancerous cells grow more rapidly than normal cells as they draw nutrients from multiple sources in the body.
Lastly, cancer cells behave abnormally, and they depend on these abnormal behaviors to survive. However, researchers have studied these strange behaviors, and several therapies to combat these abnormal behaviors are on the rise globally
Types of cancer
There are different types of cancer, and scientists have their names concerning the organs and tissues where it begins. In addition, it can also be classified according to the type of cells that grows abnormally.
We will take a quick brief on the categories of cancer according to their originating cell types;
- Carcinoma: This is the commonest of all types of cancer. It starts from the cells covering the body’s inner and outer surface (epithelial cells). However, there are different forms of epithelial cells in the body. Carcinomas that affect epithelial cells include; Adenocarcinoma, Basal carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and transitional cell carcinoma.
- Sarcoma: This form of cancer begins in the soft tissues and the bones. The tissues include the blood vessels, muscle, tendon, and ligaments.
- Leukemia: This cancer originates from the blood-forming tissues in the bone marrow. This type is not a solid form of cancer. Leukemia reduces your normal blood cells level. It makes it uneasy for oxygen to get to tissues or fight infections and control bleeding.
- Lymphoma: Begins in the lymphocyte (white blood cell). Lymphocyte constitutes a large part of your immune system. This cell’s abnormal growth often begins in the lymph nodes and lymph vessels.
- Multiple myomas: This begins in the plasma cell. The abnormal plasma cell growth occurs in the bone marrow and forms tumors in the bone.
- Melanoma: It begins in the cell that becomes melanocytes. This cell gives the skin its color (melanin).
- Spinal cord and Brain tumor: These tumors can form anywhere within the central nervous system. This development makes it easier for your specialist to differentiate this type of cancer easily.
Furthermore, an endless list of cancers affects organs and tissues. However, these are the commonest of all tissues and organs they affect; Breast, ovarian, cervical, prostate, lungs, rectum cancer, etc.
Causes of cancer
Over time, researchers have shown that cancer comes into existence when there is a strange change in the DNA within a cell. This change is known as gene mutation and can occur for several reasons. For instance, you can be born with a genetic mutation. Unhealthy activities such as smoking, exposure to cancer-causing agents (asbestos, etc.) can also be a reason for mutation.
Furthermore, a cell contains DNA that aligns with individual genes. These genes tell the cells in the body what to do when to divide and how to grow. But, when there is an error in the instructions given by the DNA to the cells, this may hinder the cell’s normal function. Thereby, they may become cancerous cells.
Several factors can expose you to the risk of cancer. However, cancer can also occur in people who don’t exhibit these factors. But, this is rare.
- Your family history: If your family has a history of any form of cancer case in the past, you might be at risk of developing cancer. There is a possibility that the gene mutation will get passed to you and future generations. However, you can visit a doctor for genetic testing to confirm if you have a cancerous gene
- Unhealthy lifestyle: This can expose you to the risk of developing cancer. For instance, habits like smoking, frequent drinking of alcohol, and obesity can increase your cancer risk.
- Age: Reports have shown that cancer can occur at any age. But, it is common in older adults as it can take a more extended period to surface
- Your Environment: If your immediate environment contains some harmful chemicals known as carcinogens, it can increase your cancer risk. Even if you don’t smoke, you can be a passive smoker when you always stay where someone is smoking. Carcinogens such as asbestos and benzenes can increase cancer risk if you inhale often.
In conclusion, according to World Health Organization, 10 million people have died from cancer in 2020. The cancer burden continues to increase globally. Researchers have been putting all effort into reducing the effect of this disease in our communities.
Managing this disease requires the services of an oncologist and other trained health personnel such as radiologists and laboratory scientists. The treatment method depends on the type of cancer and can include surgeries, chemotherapies, and cancer medicines. If your doctor diagnoses you with cancer in its earlier stage, it will increase your survival chances and make it easier to manage. However, always inform your doctor of any possible changes you notice in your body.