The name “cancer” connotes a category of diseases that are distinguished by abnormal cell growth able to spread to other areas of the body. There are more than 200 different forms of cancers, each grouped by the original cell type that was affected. Harm to the body is realized when the modified cells multiply uncontrollably to form tumors (save for the instance of leukemia where the disease prevents healthy blood functioning through an abnormal division of cells within the blood stream). The growth of tumors may interfere with the workings of different body systems such as the circulatory, nervous, and digestive systems, and the tumors can as well produce hormones that change body functions (Michalopoulou, Bulusu, & Kamphorst 635).
Tumors can be of two types, i.e. the benign tumors and malignant tumors. The former case comprises tumors that remain in a single spot and show limited growth. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, form when cancerous cells metastasize, i.e. succeed in navigating throughout the body through the lymphatic or blood systems and invade and destroy healthy tissue (Michalopoulou et al. 636). Cancer is considered a leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly one in every four deaths are attributed to it. Accordingly, the World Health Organization estimates that there are about 14 million new diagnoses of cancer and 8.2 million deaths annually (Kushi et al. 30), which, needless to say, are shocking statistics.
There are five broad groups of cancers: Carcinomas, Sarcomas, Lymphomas, Leukemias, and Adenomas (Michalopoulou et al. 636). Carcinomas are typified by cells that cover externa...
l and internal body parts and include lung, colon, and breast cancers amongst others. Sarcomas occur in cells located in bone, fat, muscle, and other supportive tissues. Lymphomas cancers commence in immune system tissues and the lymph nodes whereas Leukemias start in the bone marrow and amass in the blood stream. Adenomas, on the other hand, are cancers that begin in the thyroid and other glandular tissues (Michalopoulou et al. 636).
Cancer is caused by gene mutations, which, in most cases, are induced by environmental factors. The mutation may cause a cell to lose the ability to repair structurally damaged DNA or the ability to self-destruct or lead to the inhibition of oncogene and tumor suppressing gene function, resulting in the uncontrollable growth of cells. Exposure to carcinogens is one major cause of cancer. Carcinogens are substances that damage the DNA structure; thus, aiding or promoting cancer. Examples of carcinogens include tobacco, arsenic, asbestos, radiations such as x-rays and gamma rays, the sun, as well as compounds in vehicle exhaust fumes. Exposure to carcinogens leads to the formation of free radicals that damage cells impact their capacity to function normally (Parkin et al. 77).
A genetic predisposition to cancer, which is inherited, can also increase the likelihood to contract the same. In such cases, a person is born with certain faults in a gene or genetic mutations that increase the chances of developing cancer in the senior years (Parkin et al. 78). Cancer can also result from wrong dietary habits such as high-salt meals, food contaminants, and over-nutrition, as well as a lack of exercise.
Physical inactivity increases the risk of cancer substantially through its adverse impacts on body weight and the endocrine and immune systems. Infectious agents such as viruses (oncoviruses) e.g. the hepatitis C and hepatitis B viruses, parasites e.g. liver flukes, and cancer bacteria can also cause the development of cancer (Kushi et al. 31).
Cancers have very different symptoms, and that depend on the location of the disease, its spread, and the tumor size. Though the symptoms of some cancers such as skin cancers are very apparent, others, such as pancreas cancer, are not so physically obvious until when the disease is highly advanced (Michalopoulou et al. 636). Some of the more common signs include fever, fatigue, anemia, weight loss, and excessive sweating, which may not lead to definitive diagnoses. If cancer metastasizes, the lymph nodes may swell (Michalopoulou et al. 636).
Cancer has no known cure though there are reported cases where persons have had a complete recovery from various forms the disease (Kushi et al. 37). As with all maladies, prevention works better than cure; thus, individuals can make it a personal initiative to maintain healthy lifestyles, including subsisting on the right diets, i.e. largely plant-based diets, and in correct proportions as well as doing regular exercises (Kushi et al. 45). This initiative can go a long way in curbing the emergence and spread of the disease.
- Kushi, Lawrence, H., Colleen Doyle, Marji McCullough, Cheryl L. Rock, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Elisa V. Bandera, … Ted Gansler. “American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention: Reducing the Risk of Cancer with Healthy Food Choices.” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 66. 1(2012): 30-67. Print.
- Michalopoulou, Evdokia, Vinay Bulusu, & Jurre Kamphorst. “Metabolic Scavenging by Cancer Cells: When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Keep Eating.” British Journal of Cancer 115. 6(2016): 635-640. Print.
- Parkin, D Max, Lucy Boyd, Sarah C. Darby, David Mesher, Peter Sasieni, & Lesley C. Walker. “The Fraction of Cancer Attributable to Lifestyle and Environmental Factors in the UK in 2010.” British Journal of Cancer 105. 2(2011): 77-81. Print.
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