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Cancer: Common facts about cancer

Updated on September 12, 2015

What is cancer

Cancer is a disease that arises as a result of uncontrolled multiplication of abnormal cells in a certain part of the body. These cancer cells are formerly normal body cells which are damaged or old.I a normal human being such cells are destroyed or die through a programmed body mechanisms called apoptosis and are replaced with new specialized cells. They escape the immune system that destroy old and damaged cells.When they fail to die and multiply, they give rise to these abnormal cancerous cells.Cancerous cells form masses of cells which are called cancerous tumours.The bad thing about tumours is that they can spread to other parts of the body through blood or the lymphatic system.

A flow diagram showing how cancer occurs

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Causes of cancer

There have been many suggestions on what cause this abnormal and uncontrolled multiplication of cells. Environmental factors like exposure to certain radiations like U.V radiations promote cancers of organs like skin. Lifestyle behaviour like smoking promotes the accumulation of harmful chemicals in lungs thus causing lung cancer.Tobacco use is the single largest cause of cancer globally.Nutritional factors have also been attributed to the occurrence of cancer.

Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer

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Facts about cancer

  1. Cancer can affect all the parts of the body except the hair and nail.This is because nail and hair are only formed as a result of deposition of keratin, a protein.They do not have living cells.
  2. Cancer arises as a result of a weakened body immune system which fails to control the programmed cell death leading to multiplication of the abnormal cells.
  3. Cancererous cells can be detected in the affected organs through various tests.They include PCR,biopsy which involves microscopic examination of the affected tissue, endoscopy among others.
  4. Screening and early detection is the only sure way of managing cancer.This is because at this stage the spread is only limited.Other methods like chemotherapy which involve destroying the rapidly spreading cancer cells also destroy normal body cells.Radiation methods are also not very safe.
  5. Over 30% of deaths associated with cancer can be prevented through healthy lifestyles like avoiding smoking or immunization against HPV (Human papilomma virus),and HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) and through early detection and treatment.The screening tests include pap smear test for cervical cancer.
  6. Over 70% of cancer related deaths occur in developing countries where cervical cancer is the most common death cause.This may be due to lack of screening programmes.Early detection and treatment raises chances of survival.
  7. Living an active physical life and moderate use of alcohol are also sure ways of preventing cancer.

Cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy

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