Cancer is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that starts when some of our body’s cells start growing abnormally and out of control. This can affect different parts of the body and can lead to symptoms like weight loss, coughing or bleeding. It can also stop the body’s normal functioning.
All cancers are different but they all start when some of our cells grow and divide without stopping. They can also spread to other areas of the body through blood or lymph (a liquid that helps move cells throughout our bodies). This is how cancer can spread and cause more tumors elsewhere in the body, which doctors call metastasis.
Most cancers are not preventable, but some can be. Things that can make you more likely to get cancer include a family history of the disease, being older than 50 and having a history of smoking. But there are many ways to stay healthy and lower your risk for cancer, like eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and getting regular exercise.
Cells need a lot of energy to grow and multiply, but they also need to die at the right time so that new cells can replace them. When a gene that gives instructions for how cells should behave is changed, it can cause the cells to become cancerous. Mutations can happen naturally in the DNA of our cells or be passed down from parents, or they can develop because of certain environmental exposures like smoking or sun exposure.
Normally, when a cell gets damaged or has a mutation, other cells will repair it and keep the cell working properly. But a cancerous mutation can change proteins that normally fix damaged genes, making the cell more likely to grow and divide when it shouldn’t. These changes can also cause the cell to not die when it should, and it may continue to grow into extra cells that form tumors (or masses) in the body.
These tumors may also block other organs in the body from receiving oxygen and nutrients or they can spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymph system. This is how cancer can spread and cause more tumours and damage to other organs.
There are many different types of cancer and they are usually described by the type of cell they start in, such as skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma or melanomas) or lung cancer (small-cell lung cancer or non-small-cell lung cancer). Cancers are also sometimes classified by their stage or grade. Early-stage cancers tend to be less aggressive and have a better chance of responding to treatment. But even the most advanced cancers can still be very difficult to treat, and they are responsible for a significant number of deaths. This is why it’s important to report any unusual or persistent health problems to your doctor as soon as possible. They can advise you on the best way to manage your symptoms and your care options.