Cancer is a condition that results from abnormal cellular DNA. It is a condition wherein cells mutate and increase number, with changes in their morphology and without any function. The increase in the number of these cells infects other cells and causes them to behave the same way, a condition termed as “malignancy”.Cancer cells infiltrate normal and healthy tissue and they compete with normal cells for sustenance from the blood. Malignant cells compress and kill healthy tissue and deprive them of nutrition. In the long run, cancer cells cause cellular malignancy, nutritional deficiencies, and ultimately, death.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cancer is a poorly understood disease that robs its victims of proper functioning, the ability to perform activities of daily living, and more often than not, brings significant depression.
Any cell in the body has the potential to mutate and become a cancer cell. However, a healthy immune system is able to kill these cells before they can cause any aberration in the body. The etiology of cancer is unknown and anything that has the potential to cause cellular DNA mutation has the capacity to cause malignancy. The etiology varies across the specific types of cancer on virtually all cells of the body. Anything that can cause cancer is termed a “carcinogen”. Some of these include:
Some genes carry a code for the transcription of cancer and malignancy. It is unclear; however, what causes these genes to cause malignancy. Certain extrinsic triggers may contribute to their activation. One thing is sure though, cancer runs in the family. Genetic Screening may detect presence of these oncogenes.
Cigarettes contain hundreds of carcinogens and other harmful chemicals. It has been clearly shown through various studies that cigarette smoke, even second-hand smoke increases the risk of cancers of the lungs, oral cavity, lips, esophagus, and larynx. Smokers who inhale the smoke have an increased risk for lung cancer as the smoke reaches the lungs. A new study has coined the term “third hand smoke” wherein smoke particles become active in surfaces for days and inhaling near these surfaces also carries carcinogens into the system.
It has been noted in studies that a diet high in nitrates (processed foods), benzopyrenes (grilled foods), alcohol, red meat and fat increases cancer risk. Also, a diet low in vegetables and other greens significantly increase the risk for colon cancer.
4. Physical Activity
A sedentary lifestyle contributes to the development of cancer as much as obesity. It is important to control your weight too. It is recommended to have at least 150 minutes of non-vigorous, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.
5. Sun and UV Exposure
Sunlight and the Ultraviolet radiation it carries significantly increases cancer risk and risks for melanomas. Ultraviolet light alters the DNA of cells and this causes malignancies if not controlled by the immune system.
6. Other Carcinogens
Carcinogens, certain drugs, viruses, chemicals, pollution, and certain infectious agents all have the potential to cause malignancy. It is important to live in a clean environment to be able to avoid these triggers.
Cancer symptoms depend on the severity and specific type of cancer. Most cancers however are asymptomatic and will only produces signs once they are at advances stages. Early detection and treatment is the key to cancer survival. There are many symptoms of cancer but some of the potentially-serious warning signs are:
C-hanges in bladder or bowel habits
A-sore that doesn’t heal
U-nusual bleeding or discharges
T-hickening or lumps
I-ndigestion od diffuclty swallowing
O-bvious changes in warts, moles, or the skin
N-agging cough or hoarseness of voice
S-udden loss of weight
Management of Cancer depends on the specific stage and site of the cancer. Treatment may be primary(to kill cancer cells), adjuvant(to kill remaining cancer cells), or palliative(to treat signs and symptoms). Some treatment modalities include:
- Radiation therapy
- Stem cell transplants
- Biological therapy to improve immune function
- Hormone therapy
There is no sure way to prevent cancer as it is caused by various factors. Each of the 1 trillion cells of the body has the potential to be a cancer cell. However, there are some things we can do to drastically reduce this risk: eating a proper diet rich in fiber and vegetables, having regular exercise, avoidance of triggers, living in a clean environment and having regular screening drastically reduces the risks of cancer and its complications. Cancer is a debilitating and scary disease but it is also preventable. Just make the proper choices. Screening and prevention are keys.
Cancer Pathophysiology & Schematic Diagram
- American Cancer Society