you have been diagnosed with cancer (or if someone close to you has cancer) you
probably have many questions. You want to know what is happening inside your
body and why. How should your cancer be treated and what does your future hold ?
You many find it difficult to understand explanations from yours doctors,
articles you have read or conversations with other people.
Cancer is a complex disease and much is still unknown about it. But having a
good understanding of what cancer is will enable you to take a more active role
in your treatment.
What is cancer ?
body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. Cancer is caused by
changes or mutations in genes (DNA) that control healthy cell division. When
these genes are altered or damaged, cells divide out of control and become
cancerous tumors. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and continue to
form new abnormal cells. Basically two types of genes are involved oncogenes and
tumor suppressor genes. Oncogenes promote normal cell divisions, in the same way
the accelerator of your car makes it move. When an oncogene is damaged it acts
like an accelerator that gets stuck to the floor and the cells continue dividing
out of control.
in tumor suppressor genes can also lead to cancer. When there are healthy tumor,
suppressor genes tell cells when to stop dividing. When a tumor suppressor gene
becomes disabled it acts like a faulty brake on a car and can no longer control
runway cell division.
These two types of genes can become damaged by substances in the environment
called carcinogens which include
Cigarette smoking - Smoking can cause
cancers of the lungs, mouth, throat, bladder, kidneys and several other
organs, as well as heart disease and stroke.
chemicals radiations - Radiation (x-rays) can cause cancer. But the
x-rays used by the doctor or dentist are safe.
Alcohol- Drinking a lot of alcohol has also been shown to increase a
person's chance of getting cancer of the mouth, throat, and some other
some viruses - Certain cancers are related to viral infections and could
be prevented by behavior changes or vaccines.
Other factor that can cause the genetic changes that lead to cancer include
hormones - Breast cancer risk
factors include several factors: age; changes in hormone levels throughout
life, such as age at first menstruation, number of pregnancies, and age at
menopause; obesity; and physical activity
the aging process
diet -A healthy diet is vital for a person's
body to work its best.
a healthy susceptibility.
Among the above indicated factors, tobacco use, unhealthy diet, and physical
activity are more likely to affect personal cancer risk.
Here are some common terms you may read or hear in discussions about
An abnormal growth that is not cancerous and does not spread to
other parts of the body.
Treatment using substances produced by your own body to help your
immune system fight disease also called immunotherapy.
Removal of a simple of tissue for examination under a microscope for
the presence of cancer cells.
Any substance that can cause a genetic change (mutation) that leads
Treatment using powerful drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the
Treatment of cancer by either providing specific hormones that can
affect the growth of cancer cells or blocking the production of these
hormones by the body.
A group of rapidly dividing cancer cells which can invade nearby
tissues or travel to other parts of the body.
The spread of caner cells from one part of the body to another.
Genes that promote normal cell division.
Treatment using high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells.
Temporary or permanent disappearance of the signs and symptoms of
Tumor suppressor genes
Genes that normally tell cells when to stop dividing.
How cancer can spread :
site in which a cancer begins is called a primary tumor. When a cancerous tumor
extends to a small blood vessel it can grow through the wall of the vessel and
enter the bloodstream. Cancer cells may then called secondary tumors. Cancer cells can also enter the lymph
nodes and travel to other parts of the body through the lymphatic vessels. This
process of spreading is called metastasis. Because a cancer sometimes spreads to
other areas of the body, surgery to remove the primary tumor is important to
prevent a recurrence of the cancer at the same site or elsewhere.
Chemotherapy, biological therapy and
hormone therapy are possible treatments for cancer that has spread beyond the
site of the original tumor.
How cancer can affect the body :-
Cancer can have widespread effects. It depletes the body’s resources including
the ability of the immune system to fight off disease. Healthy cells weaken,
causing damage to organs and preventing them from performing their usual job
Impaired organ function can cause symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight
loss, anemia, fever and fatigue. In recent years the increase in tests to
diagnose many forms of cancer at an early, more treatable stage and the
development of more effective treatments have dramatically improved the outlook
for may people with cancer. Talk to your doctor and take advantage of all the
recommended screening tests such as pap smears and
mammograms so that any cancer you have can be detected in time for a
If you have cancer
If you have been diagnosed with cancer you doctor will need to
discuss the various treatment options. Include your family in these
discussions. It may take some times before your and your family come
to accept the idea that you have cancer particularly if it is not
causing pain or other symptoms. You may need several sessions with
your doctor to go over the information, ask questions and decide the
best treatment for you. Seek out other sources of information as
well. The more you know about your condition the better you will be
able to taken an active role in the many decisions that lie ahead.
It is a good idea to join a support group of other people who also
have cancer. Learning about their experiences with cancer and
treatments, can give you a more positive outlook. Having a
positive attitude can
significantly increase your chances for a cure.