Cancer is a word that brings fear to the heart of all who hear it, particularly when mentioned by a doctor concerning recent tests. So what is cancer? What causes it? Why is it so dangerous to our health? overview
We need to consider the basics before we can answer these questions.
Microscopic cells are the basic building blocks of animals and plants. With various types of millions of tiny cells, our bodies are composed. Normally, in order to produce more cells as needed to keep the body healthy and functioning properly, our cells grow and divide. However, due to variety of reasons, things can rarely go wrong with our cells.
Each of our cells comprises tiny strands of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and these molecules carry hereditary information and pass it from one generation to the next. It is this DNA that determines the type and function of each cell.
Mutation and its Cause
The change in DNA makeup of a living cell is known as a mutation. The cause of these mutations is mistakes or problems often arising during cell division. Other problems in the environment can occur when exposed to DNA-damaging substances or agents. Contact to radiation, carcinogenic substances, and smoking are all known to cause mutations in cells in mammals and these mutations can cause life threatening diseases.
Mutations can be damaging, advantageous, or have no effect whatsoever. If mutations take place in cells making eggs or sperm, they can be passed onto future generations and inherited by their offspring. If the mutations occur in other types of cells, then they are not always inherited or passed on to future generations. Specific mutations may cause cancer or other diseases.
A Tumor is an unusual mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Tumors may be benign (not cancerous), or malignant(cancerous).
Being fairly harmless, benign tumors usually don’t spread around the body or cause any damage to other organs. Usually, they are fairly easy to remove, for example with surgery, and they often don’t grow back. Benign tumors are rarely a threat to life. Benign tumors are not cancer. However, from time to time benign tumors can change and become malignant. Malignant tumors are cancer, and they can have severe effects on health and life-span.
Cancer is a particular type of disease in which irregular body cells are formed and reproduce so they can attack nearby tissues and organs of the body. They then spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body and attack other organs and tissues.
Types of Cancer
With a wide range of cancers, the human body can be affected. However, there are really only five main types of cancer: Carcinoma, Sarcoma, Leukaemia, Lymphoma, and Multiple Myeloma.
Carcinoma is a type of cancer beginning in the skin and/or tissues lining and covering our internal organs.
Sarcoma is a type of cancer that begins in our bones, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive type tissue.
Leukaemia is a type of cancer that starts within the blood-forming tissues for example the bone marrow. This causes huge numbers of unusual blood cells to be produced and enter the bloodstream.
Lymphoma and Multiple Myeloma are both types of cancer that begin in the cells of the immune system.
Metastasis is the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. Through the blood stream or lymphatic system, cells from the cancer can break away from the original tumor and spread to other parts of the body, lodging in other organs and tissues and allowing the cancer to develop and grow in these places.
Metastatic Tumor a tumor formed by cells that have spread. A metastatic tumor contains cells that are similar to those in the original (primary) tumor. It can be difficult to control, treat and eradicate, once a tumor spreads throughout the body.