Cancer – In Layman Terms
Cancer (Latin language for "crab") is a class of diseases or disorders related to malignanttumors (that is: body cells gone haywire and forming growths which are harmful for the body itself). When a person has cancer, their body has no control over cells which begin to split apart. In a person without cancer, healthy cells split apart all the time and copy themselves to create new healthy cells. In a person with cancer, this normal process of cells splitting and re-creating themselves actually helps spread cancer. Cancerous cells (cells that have cancer in them) split themselves, copy themselves, and make new cells that are copies of themselves - meaning that the new cells that were created are also cancerous.
These cells are able to go into other tissues by growing into them. They can also get into other tissues by putting themselves into faraway places in the body by metastasis. Metastasis is a process in which cancer cells move through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. When this happens, a person's cancer can be spread throughout his body (this is called "metastasizing" - the cancer has spread through metastasis).
Cancer can affect anybody at any age. Most types of cancer are more likely to affect people as they get older. This is because as a person's DNA gets older, their DNA may become damaged, or damage that happened in the past may get worse. One type of cancer that is more common in young men, rather than older people, is testicular cancer (cancer of the testicles).
Cancer is one of the biggest and most researched causes of death in developed countries.
Cancer is a leading cause of death (one of the most common causes of death) around the world. It causes about 12.5% (or 12.5 out of every 100) of all deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Different types of cancer have different causes. There are some things that are known to cause a specific type of cancer; there are also other things that are known to be able to cause many different types of cancer. For example, using tobacco (smoked or smokeless) can cause many types of cancers, such as lung, mouth, tongue, and throat cancers. Other things that are known to be able to cause cancer - or make a person more likely to get cancer - include: being exposed to lots of sunlight; radiation (including X-rays in large or many doses, and exposure to radiation in a nuclear power plant); chemicals used in building and manufacturing (for example, asbestos and benzene); high-fat or low-fiber diets; air and water pollution; eating very little fruits and vegetables; obesity; not enough physical activity; drinking too much alcohol; and certain chemicals commonly used at home. Some cancers can also be caused by viruses. Even if a person is exposed to one of these possible causes of cancer, it does not mean that he will automatically or certainly get cancer. Many people who are exposed to these things do not get cancer - but some do.
There are many different kinds of cancers. Some of the most common are breast cancer, brain cancer, leukemia (a blood cancer), testicular cancer, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Breast cancer begins in the breast. It can be found in anybody at anytime, even in men. Brain cancer starts in the brain with a brain tumor). (A tumor is a clump of cancer cells which is formed by cancer cells splitting and copying each other to form more cancer cells, which clump together into a tumor. The tumor grows if the cancer cells in the tumor continue to copy themselves and add more cancer cells onto the tumor.) Testicular cancer starts in the testicles, and is most common in young men. Mesothelioma and lung cancer start in the lungs. Mesothelioma is usually caused by exposure to asbestos.
There is no sure cure for cancer. It can only be cured if all of the cancerous cells are cut out or killed in place. This means that the earlier the cancer is treated, the better the chances are for a cure (because the cancer cells may not have had enough time to copy themselves and spread so much that the person cannot be cured). There are a few different types of treatments that are used to try to kill cancer cells. These treatments are radiotherapy or radiation therapy (which uses radiation to kill cancer cells); chemotherapy (which uses strong medications to kill cancer cells); and immunotherapy (also called biological therapy). In some cases, at least a part of the tumor can be taken out through surgery. But this is not the end of treatment. After surgery, patients may need radiotherapy or chemotherapy to keep the tumor from growing again.
One big problem in treating cancer is that most things that kill cancer cells also kill normal, healthy cells. (This is why people who are getting chemotherapy often lose their hair and throw up a lot - their chemotherapy kills the cells in the hair, causing the hair to fall out, and the chemotherapy also kills cells in the lining of the stomach, causing nausea (feeling like throwing up) and vomiting (throwing up). Another problem is that the body's immune system (which is supposed to protect the body by attacking threats and intruders) usually will not attack cancer cells, even though they could easily kill the body. This is because the cancer has actually become a part of the body by invading cells and tissues. So the immune system sees the cancer as part of the body it is trying to protect, not as a threat to be attacked. A third major problem is that there are many different types of cancer, and each type has its own symptoms and causes. Even with the same type of cancer, different people may have different symptoms, and may react to treatments differently; their cancer also may grow or spread at different speeds. Treatment has to be a good fit to both the type of cancer and the individual person who has the cancer.
Many people in many countries study cancer and work on finding treatments. There has been some good progress in finding treatments, and many cancers are treated with success. Along with looking for different medical treatments to treat cancer, some studies also look for things that people with cancer can do themselves to try to make themselves healthier. For example, one study showed that if a person with lymphedema (a swelling of the arm linked to breast cancer) lifts weights, he may be able to fight his cancer better than somebody who does not lift weights.
Follow us in Facebook
Download our app in GooglePlaystore