What Is Cancer?
The word cancer is just a broad name for many different diseases. Cancer is the uncontrolled division of cells and the ability of these cells to invade other tissues. This unregulated growth is caused by a series of acquired or inherited mutations to DNA within cells. Genetic information that defines the cell functions are destroyed and cell division becomes uncontainable.
Normal Cells vs. Cancer Cells
Normal cells have a set function while they grow and stay in place. The cells in our bodies continuously divide to replace worn-out cells in a very systematic way. Because worn-out cells must be replaced, cell division happens at a slow pace. The balance between the growth and death of cells keeps our bodies functioning normally.
Cancer cells have no useful function and are uncontrolled in their division and growth. While normal cells stay where they belong, cancer cells travel throughout the body. These cells do not stop reproducing. Eventually, a tumor is formed that is made up of billions of duplicates of the original cancer cell.
Staging & Grading
Staging & Grading is the determination of the kinds of cancer cells and their rate of progression. The stage and grade of a cancer helps doctors predict how a cancer might behave, how it has progressed and how well it may react to treatment.
- Size and spread
- Types of cells
- Clinical history of the disease
- Health status
How Is Cancer Treated?
The good news is that cancer can be treated. There are several options for the patient that has been diagnosed with cancer.
- Surgery: Cancer cells and sometimes healthy cells and tissue are removed to ensure the cancer has dissipated.
- Radiation Therapy: The type of radiation used will depend on the patient's type of cancer. Sometimes, radiation machines are aimed at a small area of the body. Other times, the radioactive material is placed directly into the cancer so that it harms as few normal cells as possible.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a series of powerful drugs that can be administered in several ways that are designed to attack and kill fast-growing cancer cells. Cancer chemotherapy drugs can be administered into a vein, muscle or through the mouth.
- Other Medicines
- Hormones: Hormone therapy can reduce the level of particular hormones in the patient's body or alter the cancer's ability to use these hormones to grow and metastasize.
- Monoclonal antibodies: Antibodies are made in large quantities in a laboratory rather than by the patient's immune system.
- Vaccines: Treatment or therapeutic vaccines are administered to cancer patients and are designed to strengthen the body's natural resistance against cancers that have already developed. These types of vaccines may defend against the further growth of existing cancers, prevent the recurrence of cured cancers, or eliminate cancer cells not destroyed by prior treatments.
- Targeted Therapies: Targeted Cancer Therapies use drugs that interfere with the growth and spread of cancer. Because this type of therapy focuses on molecular and cellular changes that are specific to cancer, it may be less harmful to normal cells.
- Integrative/Complementary Therapies: Used in conjunction with a patient's medical treatment, there are additional therapies that can help enhance health and the quality of life with methods such as relaxation, acupuncture, meditation, hypnotherapy, yoga, exercise and massage.