According to the American Cancer Society report “Cancer Facts & Figures 2014”, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed and 585,720 cancer deaths in the United States this year. Cancer is a disease that occurs among males and females in all ethnic groups. Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths.
How Cancer Starts
The human body is comprised of trillions of cells. The normal process is for cells to grow, divide into new cells and eventually die. Cancer begins when cells in a particular part of the body start to grow out of control. Unlike in the normal process noted above, cancer cells simply continue to grow and then form new abnormal cells. The truly distinguishing feature of a cancer cell is that it can invade other tissues, which is something that normal cells are unable to do.
The process of a cell becoming a cancer cell starts with damage to the cell DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) which directs its actions. While normally damaged DNA results in the cell repairing the damage or dying, in the cancer cell the DNA damage is not repaired, but the cell does not die. This damaged cell then goes on to produce new cells that contain the same damaged DNA
Types of Cancer
Regardless of where cancer is found in the body, it is always named for the place where it originated. However, different types of cancer can manifest themselves very differently in the body. As such, they grow at different rates and respond better to one treatment over another. The most commonly diagnosed cancers among men are prostate, bladder and melanoma, while uterine, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and breast cancer are most common among women.
Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are the most often used cancer treatment methods. Additional treatments include hormone therapy, stem cell/bone marrow transplant, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. Worth noting is that each type of cancer is different, as is each person’s response to a particular treatment.
Risk Factors for Cancer
Lifestyle choices or sedentary behavior are contributory risk factors for cancer. Smoking, poor diet, and obesity are also part of this group. Other known common risk factors are using chewing tobacco, alcohol consumption, and prolonged sun exposure. The environment around you can also increase your risk of developing cancer through prolonged exposure to harmful chemicals such as benzene, asbestos, or second hand cigarette smoke.
Changes in lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. This includes certain sexual practices linked to HPV (human papilloma virus).
While there is no good way to receive the news of a cancer diagnosis, understanding both the disease and treatment options will provide you with the information needed to make sound decisions in managing your medical care.