What is Cancer?
Cancer is a disease that occurs because of uncontrolled cell division. The cells are the structural and functional units of human body. Under normal conditions, both the cell division as well as cell function are very strictly controlled in order for health to be maintained.
In contrast, in cancer a cell group escapes this control and creates a mass (tumor) where cells are divided without restriction. Cancer cells are characterized by a capacity to infiltrate neighbor organs and also to migrate to parts of the body different from where they originally came from. These capacities differentiate cancer cells from normal human body cells.
Cancer unbalances the normal function of the human body. Early prevention and adequate treatment by specialized professionals are important factors that may determine the outcomes of the disease.
Multiple factors are responsible for causing cancer. Carcinogenesis is a process through which cancer cells escape human control. It is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors, each one accounting for a different degree of causality for every patient.
Inheritance is more prominent in some forms of cancer (breast, bowel cancer). Some cancer types are almost exclusively connected with environmental factors (i.e. smoking for lung cancer, sunlight for skin cancer, human papilloma virus for cervical cancer etc.) In most cases, cancer is the result of a predisposed genetic background being exposed on a harmful environment.
On some occasions, cancer isn’t diagnosed till it’s quite advanced as it doesn’t often give symptoms. For decades, scientists have been aiming in identifying diagnostic methods that would allow early cancer diagnosis maximizing therapeutic benefits. It is nowadays routine practice to perform cancer checkups on general population with impressive results in cancer prevention.
The ones most known, are yearly mammography, smear for gynecological cancer (pap – test), PSA for prostate cancer and colonoscopy for bowel cancer.
Unfortunately, in most cancer types diagnosis occurs if cancer becomes symptomatic, guiding then patients to seek medical help. In high risk groups, more specialized tests are sometimes requested by professionals.