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Cancer: Its Causes And Method of Treatment

Our bodies are made up of millions of tiny cells that frequently divide and multiply.  Whenever an old cell is worn out or damaged, a new cell is created to replace it.  Each cell contains ‘genes’ that are formulated from our DNA. The proteins within the gene itself control when the cell should divide and multiply.  If however, the gene is damaged or altered, the cell becomes ‘abnormal’, and as a consequence, it erratically divides and multiplies to clump together and form a ‘tumour’.


There are two types of tumour: benign and malignant.  Benign tumours are not cancerous and therefore won’t invade or spread to other parts of the body.  However, malignant tumours can cause serious health problems, as they can grow very quickly, invade nearby tissues and organs and therefore cause damage.  They may even spread to other parts of the body and cause secondary tumours (called metastases). 


However, not all cancers will form tumours.  Cancers of the blood, like leukaemia, develop from abnormal blood cells, which then attack other areas of the body by circulating around the bloodstream.  Cancers that develop in the surface linings of organs are called ‘carcinomas’ (which are more common).  Cancers that appear in the cells of solid tissues such as muscles, bones and blood vessels are called ‘sarcomas’.  


If you’re diagnosed with cancer, the doctors will need to determine what type you have, and then decide whether it has already started to spread.  Common symptoms may include unexplained lumps and swellings, tiredness, weight loss, poor appetite, night sweats, fever and also constant digestive and/or bowel disturbances.


Whatever the outcome, DON’T PANIC!  This reaction is completely understandable, however it will only cause further stress on the body.  DON’T GIVE UP and ALWAYS TRY TO KEEP POSITIVE!  Early diagnosis is so very important - as in most cases, it can improve your chances of survival.  So, if you do suspect anything unusual, GET DOWN to your doctor straight away.


Cancer can have many causes and sometimes there is no clear reason why a cancer will develop.  Certain cancers, like breast cancer, may even be hereditary.  However, most cancers tend to be caused by a combination of factors that are known to damage cells (free radical damage), and so weaken the immune system, therefore increasing the risk of cancer.  These factors include smoking, excessive prolonged stress, diet, obesity, lack of exercise, poor lifestyle, excessive consumption of alcohol, and environmental factors such as prolonged exposure to strong UV light from the sun.  


Treatment varies depending on the type of cancer and just how far it may have spread.  There are 3 main types of medical treatment and these include:


1)   Surgical removal of solid tumours and possibly the surrounding non-cancerous tissue and lymph nodes, to try to prevent the cancer returning. 


2)    Chemotherapy treatment (drugs to try and kill cancer cells, or stop them spreading) is given either by mouth, or by injection into a vein, over a course of over 6 treatments maximum.  ‘Chemo’ can help shrink a tumour to make it easier for the surgeon to remove it.  However, the treatment is harsh on the body and cannot differentiate between good cells and bad cells.  It therefore wipes out healthy calls too; increasing free radical damage, considerably weakening the body and exposing it to further infection.  Depending on which drug combination you’ve been given, there often will be some side affects, such as sickness, diarrhoea, hair loss and mouth sores, which can continue for many months or more. 


3)    Radiotherapy aims to destroy the cancerous cells with radiation from X-rays, without harming the surrounding healthy tissue.  This treatment affects people in different ways.  Some people have side affects such as tiredness, lack of appetite and depression, whilst others have none.  In women, radiotherapy to the pelvic area can often kick-start early menopause or even create difficulties in conceiving.


The above information should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.









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