When I was little, I used to be fascinated with zodiac signs. And being born in July (and therefore a Cancer), I used to joke that I “have” cancer. It was funny to me because, back then, I didn’t understand the gravity of this illness. Now, as an adult who has experienced the loss of a family member because of it, I understand that Cancer isn’t a laughing matter. To help you understand how serious this disease is, here are some important facts you need to know about cancer.
According to WHO (World Health Organization), cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. In 2018 alone, it has caused about 9.6 million deaths. And sadly, despite major advances in science and technology, there’s still no cure to it until today. So how can we possibly deal with an enemy that seems to be invincible? Simply by educating ourselves about it.
Important Facts about Cancer
Fact #1: Cancer cells divide and conquer
We all know that cancer is nothing but unwanted, abnormal cells that grow uncontrollably inside the human body. But what we don’t know is how they are produced and where they come from.
The uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells in our body is a result of mutation. It occurs when a gene in our cells is lost or damaged. This causes cells to fail to produce signals that control how many cells to divide and how often they should do so. This leads to cell overproduction that causes lumps, also known as “tumors”.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America also clearly explains the process in this fashion:
Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor.
Fact #2: Cancer cells can spread to other parts but retains the name
One reason cancer is very hard to treat is that it can break away from the original tumor and spread to other parts of the body. This process is called “metastasis.” When this happens, note that the original place of the tumor gives cancer its permanent name. For example, when breast cancer has spread to the brain, the patient is still considered a breast cancer patient.
The distinction is important because cancers that start in a certain place have different characteristics than cancers that start in other places of the body. This is because the treatments given to cancer patients are based on the primary tumor type.
Fact #3: Cancer cells are highly adaptive
Another important fact to know about cancer is that it’s an evolving disease, which makes it very hard for scientists to find a cure. The reason for this is because even non-cancerous cells help promote the growth and production of abnormal cells. So when a cancer cell is altered or destroyed by treatments, the communities of cells work together to create the so-called “workarounds.”
Fact #4: It used to be seen as a single disease
Today we know that cancer is a collection of more than 100 different diseases. But in the ‘70, it was perceived as a single disease. Fortunately, due to ample research, cancer treatments can now be tailored to treat specific cancer cells based on their origin and characteristics.
Specialists consider several factors before beginning the treatment. This includes the patient’s hereditary qualities, way of life, and other variables that can influence cancer growth. This information can help them develop a treatment plan that will best suit the condition of the patient.
Fact #5: Some cancer forms are preventable
While the cause of gene mutation in cells that eventually leads to cancer growth is unknown, other forms of cancer are highly preventable. According to The Conversation, 30% of cancers can be prevented simply by avoiding tobacco, living a healthy lifestyle, exercising, and limiting alcohol use. It can also help to get vaccinated against cancer-causing infections.
Fact #6: Millions of people die from cancer every year
If you’re still in doubt about the seriousness of this disease, then just look at the statistics. It’s another important fact to know about cancer. 6 million people die from it every year. That is 1 in every 6 deaths annually. And what’s more, nearly everyone in the world knows or has lost someone due to this disease.
Fact #7: Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide
It is only second to cardiovascular diseases such as Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), heart attack, arrhythmia, and heart failure. Furthermore, the most common type of this disease is breast cancer, followed by lung cancer and prostate cancer.
Fact #8: Early detection can save lives
Early detection is important as it could save up to 7 million lives each year. By detecting cancer early, the patient can implement appropriate strategies to prevent the condition from getting worse.
Spread the Word! Sharing is Caring
Without a definite cure, cancer is indeed very hard to defeat. But it does not mean we are fighting for a lost cause. Scientists and researchers never stop finding ways to understand this disease better to find a cure.
As for us, non-medical experts, we can do our part in this fight by keeping ourselves and our loved ones informed about the existence and possible prevention of cancer. If you find this chunk of information useful, be sure to share it with your loved ones. They too should learn about the important facts about cancer.
If you want to learn more about staying healthy to prevent cancer, check out this article next.