World Cancer Day aims to address the global impact of the disease and offering support to cancer patients and survivors through catalyzing personal, collective, and government action. On this day, various forums and organizations try to deal with the misinformation and stigma around cancer.
The most common types of cancer are breast, oral, cervical, lung, stomach, and colorectal cancer, and it is important to provide people with the correct information and healthcare in time.
As a day observed by the United Nations, World Cancer Day seeks to unite the international community in support of those affected by cancer and also calls to all global citizens to take action against this disease.
World Cancer Day aims to prevent millions of deaths each year by raising awareness and education about cancer, and pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action against the disease.
This year the world has been grappling with a health pandemic, and hence it becomes all the more important to raise awareness about other deadly diseases including cancer.
Cancer has emerged as the second leading cause of death globally. Recent studies estimate about one out of six people worldwide died from cancer – that’s more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, as per Cancer.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is when abnormal cells divide in an uncontrolled way. Some cancers may eventually spread into other tissues.
There are more than 200 different types of cancer.
How cancer starts?
Cell changes and cancer
All cancers begin in cells. Our bodies are made up of more than a hundred million million (100,000,000,000,000) cells. Cancer starts with changes in one cell or a small group of cells.
Usually, we have just the right number of each type of cell. This is because cells produce signals to control how much and how often the cells divide. If any of these signals are faulty or missing, cells might start to grow and multiply too much and form a lump called a tumour.
A primary tumour is where the cancer starts. Some types of cancer, called leukaemia Open a glossary item, start from blood cells. They don’t form solid tumours. Instead, the cancer cells build up in the blood and sometimes the bone marrow Open a glossary item.
For a cancer to start, certain changes take place within the genes Open a glossary item of a cell or a group of cells.
Genes and cell division
Different types of cells in the body do different jobs. But they are basically similar.
All cells have a control centre called a nucleus. Inside the nucleus are chromosomes made up of thousands of genes. Genes contain long strings of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which are coded
messages that tell the cell how to behave. where genes are in cells
Each gene is an instruction that tells the cell to make something. This could be a protein or a different type of molecule called RNA (ribonucleic acid). Together, proteins and RNA control the cell. They decide:
what sort of cell it will be , what it does, when it divides ,when it dies?
Gene changes within cells (mutations)
Genes Open a glossary item make sure that cells grow and make copies (reproduce) in an orderly and controlled way. And are needed to keep the body healthy.
Sometimes a change happens in the genes when a cell divides. This is a mutation. It means that a gene has been damaged or lost or copied too many times.
Mutations can happen by chance when a cell is dividing. Some mutations mean that the cell no longer understands its instructions. It can start to grow out of control. There have to be about 6 different mutations before a normal cell turns into a cancer cell.
Mutations in particular genes may mean that:
a cell starts making too many proteins that trigger a cell to divide.
a cell stops making proteins that normally tell a cell to stop dividing.
abnormal proteins may be produced that work differently to normal.
It can take many years for a damaged cell to divide and grow and form a tumour big enough to cause symptoms or show up on a scan.
How mutations happen
Mutations can happen by chance when a cell is dividing. They can also be caused by the processes of life inside the cell. Or by things coming from outside the body, such as the chemicals in tobacco smoke. And some people can inherit faults in particular genes that make them more likely to develop a cancer.
Some genes get damaged every day and cells are very good at repairing them. But over time, the damage may build up. And once cells start growing too fast, they are more likely to pick up further mutations and less likely to be able to repair the damaged genes.
A primary tumour is the name for where a cancer starts.
Cancer can sometimes spread to other parts of the body – this is called a secondary tumour or a metastasis.
Cancer and its treatments can affect body systems, such as the blood circulation, lymphatic and immune systems, and the hormone system.
Most cancers start due to gene changes that happen over a person’s lifetime.
Sometimes cancers start due to inherited faulty genes passed down in families but this is rare.
Cancers are divided into groups according to the type of cell they start from. They include
Stage of a Cancer
Staging and grading give an idea of how quickly a cancer may grow and which treatments may work best
The stage of a cancer means how big it is and whether it has spread.
Many cancers are cured. But in some people cancer can return.
Some cancers can’t be cured but treatment is often able to control them for some years.
While doctors have an idea of what may increase your risk of cancer, the majority of cancers occur in people who don’t have any known risk factors. Factors known to increase your risk of cancer include:
Cancer can take decades to develop. That’s why most people diagnosed with cancer are 65 or older. While it’s more common in older adults, cancer isn’t exclusively an adult disease — cancer can be diagnosed at any age.
Certain lifestyle choices are known to increase your risk of cancer. Smoking, drinking more than one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men, excessive exposure to the sun or frequent blistering sunburns, being obese, and having unsafe sex can contribute to cancer.
You can change these habits to lower your risk of cancer — though some habits are easier to change than others.
Your family history
Only a small portion of cancers are due to an inherited condition. If cancer is common in your family, it’s possible that mutations are being passed from one generation to the next. You might be a candidate for genetic testing to see whether you have inherited mutations that might increase your risk of certain cancers. Keep in mind that having an inherited genetic mutation doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get cancer.
Your health conditions
Some chronic health conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, can markedly increase your risk of developing certain cancers. Talk to your doctor about your risk.
The environment around you may contain harmful chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer. Even if you don’t smoke, you might inhale secondhand smoke if you go where people are smoking or if you live with someone who smokes. Chemicals in your home or workplace, such as asbestos and benzene, also are associated with an increased risk of cancer.