Cancer is essentially a disease that occurs when cellular changes cause rapid, unregulated cell growth and division. There are several different types of cancer, where some cause rapid cell growth and others cause cells to develop and divide at a very slow pace. With cancer that causes rapid cell growth, tumors and visible growths can develop. Cancerous cells that cause tumours and growths can damage the immune system and hinder the body from functioning properly.
Cells naturally die as a natural process known as apoptosis. When the cells die, the body replaces them with newer, optimally functioning cells. However, cancerous cells are unable to stop growing and dividing, they do not die. As a result, the cancerous cells begin to build-up, they will use up nutrients and oxygen that healthy cells need.
Causes of Cancer
There are several causes of cancer. Some are based on genetics and are often unavoidable. Smoking cigarettes is one of the leading causes of cancer. In addition, the other risk factors include:
- Exposure to known carcinogens (i.e. substances that cause cancer) such as asbestos, radioactive materials and many chemicals
- Exposure to radon and UV radiation
- Bacteria and viruses such as HPV (human papilloma virus), EBV (Epstein-Barr virus), HBV and HCV (hepatitis viruses), Helicobacter pylori bacteria
- Lifestyle related factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, excessive weight, lack of physical activity, poor diet
- Some drugs may increase the risk of cancer (e.g. medications that cause immune deficiency, certain hormones, certain antineoplastic agents)
Fortunately, with innovative research and technologies, there has been a constant development of new, effective medications. Doctors prescribe treatment based on the type of cancer, the cancer stage and on the individual’s overall health.