When you think about your health and the health of your loved ones, there’s one word that’s very scary: cancer. Do you know someone whose life has been affected by cancer? Chances are that you probably have, because cancer affects the lives of many people in one way or another.
Cancer is particularly scary because there are so many types of cancer. Many types of cancer cause serious illnesses and often death. Although older people tend to get cancer more often than younger people, kids can get cancer, too. Thanks to advanced medical treatments, though, many types of childhood cancer can be treated and cured.
All forms of cancer start at the level of the cells in your body. Cells are the small units that make up the human body. Did you realize that you have billions of cells in your body? It’s true!
When your body’s cells work properly, they grow and divide. Over time, they know when to stop growing and they eventually die. Cancer cells, however, are not normal. They grow and spread very fast. Unlike normal cells, they keep growing and don’t die when they’re supposed to.
As they grow, cancer cells tend to group together to form masses called tumors. As tumors form and grow, they destroy healthy cells and tissues. This internal destruction is what causes someone with cancer to become very sick.
As tumors grow, cancer cells sometimes break away and move to new parts of the body to form new tumors. Doctors call the process of cancer spreading in this way metastasis. If cancer spreads to enough areas and damages enough healthy cells and tissues, it can cause death.
Unfortunately, doctors don’t know exactly why some people get cancer. They do know that it’s not contagious, so you can’t get cancer from someone else who has it. It’s also not caused by germs, so don’t ever be afraid to give someone with cancer a big hug!
Over time, doctors and scientists have identified some factors that may lead to particular types of cancer. For example, cigarette smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays have all been linked to certain types of cancer.
Although there are still many mysteries surrounding cancer, doctors and scientists have been working hard for many years to develop newer and better treatments. Treatments include procedures such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Depending upon the specific type of cancer, these procedures may be used alone or combined.
Thanks to advances in medicine over the years, more and more people survive cancer today. When all the signs and symptoms of cancer are gone, doctors say a patient is in remission. Remission is a word that every cancer patient wants to hear. As doctors and scientists continue to develop new treatments, remission is a word that more and more patients will hear in the future!