Usually cancer is described as terminal and people consider it like a message of death. Cancer is actually a collection of related diseases which are usually termed as types of cancer. In human beings, there are more than 100 types of cancer and in all types, functioning of body cells become abnormal i.e. some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues.
As human body is composed of trillions of cells and cancer is actually malfunctioning of cells, so it can start almost anywhere in the human body. It is basically a genetic disease, it means that it is caused by changes to genes that control the way our cells important function like how they grow and divide. These change can be inherited from parents as well as one can develop during his lifetime.
The genetic changes which can arise during the lifetime is are actually the outcomes of errors that occur as cells divide. Damage to human DNA caused by certain environmental exposures like radiation and chemicals can also lead to genetic changes. Substances like chemicals in tobacco smoke, and radiation, such as ultraviolet rays from the sun are some major causes of cancer.
Cancer: Malignant, Benign, Tumors, Metastasis, Stages
Let’s learn about some of the most frequently used terms in the cancer world in more details:
What does Benign Cancer mean?
It is a type of tumor that cannot spread, in more technical words, it cannot metastasize. Most common examples are uterine fibroid and moles. The word “Benign” means non-progressive, there will be no changes in it and it remains as it is. Unlike cancer cells, the cells in benign tumors don’t invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. They can often be removed, and, in most cases, they do not come back.
Benign tumors are usually considered harmless to human health as they are non cancerous in nature but they can be harmful when they press against nerves or blood vessels and cause pain or other negative effects. For example, if a benign tumor is present in brain, one may experience headaches, vision trouble, fuzzy memory etc.
If you discover a lump or mass in your body, you don’t need to be panic immediately, as most of them are just benign tumors, they can form anywhere in the body and it can be felt outside the body. Some women, for instance, who find lumps in their breasts during self-examinations became nervous but in actual, many growths throughout the body are benign. Till today, it couldn’t revealed that why these tumor come into being but they form as a result of rapid or excessive cell division and growth. Possible symptoms of a benign tumor include discomfort or pain, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, night sweats or weight loss.
What does Malignant Cancer mean?
The mechanism of malignant cancer is exactly reverse to benign tumor as abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues when someone suffer from it. This type of cancer is has tendency to spread into other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. Sometimes cells move away from the original cancer site and spread to other organs and bones. At new place, they can continue to grow and form another tumor at that site. This is known as metastasis. In Metastases, cancer keep the name of the original location. e.g. pancreatic cancer that has spread to the liver is still called pancreatic cancer.
Malignancy have several types such as Sarcoma is a malignancy that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue. Leukemia is a another type of malignancy that starts in blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow. A large numbers of abnormal blood cells are being produced and entered the blood. Immune system can be damaged through some other malignancies named as Lymphoma and multiple myeloma that begin in the cells of the immune system. Carcinoma begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs. Central nervous system malignancies begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
What are Cancer cells?
Human body is composed of large number of cells and cancer is a phenomenon in which these cells become dangerous to the body, so how one can distinguish between normal and a cancerous cell. Normal body cells perform different kinds of productive functions within the body such as they reproduce themselves only when and where they are needed and they stick together in the right place.
Human cells are designed in such a way that if they are if they are damaged or too old, then they either repair or destruct themselves. DNA repair is common phenomenon among cells in which they can repair themselves if their genes become damaged. This is known as DNA repair. And when damage is severe and repair is not possible then cells destroy themselves, called as apoptosis. Cancerous cells are different from normal cells in following ways:
- With the passage of time, our body cells become mature. It means they get specialized in the function which they have to perform. Cancerous cells don’t become specialized like normal cells because they keep on dividing and don’t get sufficient time to mature.
- Normal cells have signal system, when number of cells become sufficient, they sent massage to other cells and they don’t divide themselves further. But in case of cancerous cells, this mechanism become different. Although there is no need for new cells in the body, but cancer cells continue to grow and divide themselves and as a result of this doubling, a lump is formed that grows in size gradually. Eventually a tumor forms that is made up of billions of copies of the original cancerous cell.
- Every type of cancer don’t have the same mechanism like in leukemia(blood cancer), many abnormal blood cells built in blood that have a kind of molecule on their surface, due to this molecule they remain detached from their neighbor cells so they don’t get signals like normal cells. This signal system is essential for cells to be aware of their number i.e. Normal cells obey signals through which they are being told that they have reached their limit and will cause damage if they grow any further.
- Quick division increase the chances of mistake in their genes also, which is further harmful as they become even more immature at every division time so they divide and grow even more quickly and haphazardly.
- In addition, cancer cells neither repair themselves nor die. In cancer cells, the molecules that decide whether a cell should repair itself are faulty.
- Cancer cells look different from normal cells under a microscope. Cancer cells are often abnormally shaped and the nucleus(control center) have an abnormal appearance.
What are Cancer Moles?
We all have normally moles and they are everywhere on our body. Most of us think about them like what are they actually and they may be dangerous as they are also a collection of cells. Moles are benign growth of specific type of cells termed as melanocytes. These cells are responsible to give color to our skin. Normal moles are flat or raised but the surface is typically smooth. If you have moles that is irregular in shape, contain many colors, and are larger than the size of a pencil eraser, then you should take appointment from your skin doctor.
What are Cancer Tumors?
Tumor is threatening type of cancer but every tumor doesn’t mean that the tumor possessor has developed cancer. Tumor refers to mass and every tumor is not necessarily a cancer. Many people use cancer and tumor interchangeably which can be misleading. It simply refer to mass or a collection of fluid can also be called tumor.
What are Cancer Lesions
Lesion can be almost any abnormal change in any tissue or organ due to disease or injury. They can be categorized on the basis of number of factors such as:.
- whether or not they are caused by cancer. It can be non-cancerous as well as cancerous.
- A lesion can be of different shapes like bull eye or coin shape.
- They vary in sizes also such a gross lesion is one that can be seen with the naked eye while a microscopic lesion requires a microscope to be seen.
- Location is another basis for categorizing and naming the lesions. In neurology, a central lesion involves the brain or spinal cord (the central nervous system) while a peripheral lesion involves the nerves away from the spinal cord.
If you find a hard lump in any part of your body or in breast especially that does not move, then you should consult a doctor as it requires further evaluation such as a physical examination of your breasts. Breast examination can be done through a mammogram, a sonogram or biopsy. Hard lumps are often considered more suspicious as compare to soft ones. Soft lumps are considered normal in premenopausal women (those who are still having periods). When you find a new or hard or otherwise unusual lump, you shouldn’t take it light.
What are Cancer Polyps?
Polyp is a nonspecific term which is used to describe a growth on the inner surface of the colon. Like many other growths on skin, Polyps are often non-cancerous in nature but some can develop into cancer. Colorectal cancer usually begins as a polyp. Colon and rectum are two common types of polyps cancer. People may inherit diseases in which the risk of colon polyps and cancer is very high. Colorectal cancer may also develop from abnormal cells present in the lining of the colon or rectum. When polyps get large, they can cause symptoms like bleeding from rectum or a change in bowel habits. Experts recommend routine colon cancer testing for everyone aged between 50 and 75 as these people have more risk for colon cancer.
What are Cancer Stages?
Normally the first question after cancer diagnosis is about its stage. This question is relevant as answer of this question helps to determine about the severity of problem. The term cancer stages is a way to describe the size of a cancer and how far it has grown. TNM system is used to divide cancers into different stages. Mostly cancer have 4 stages, numbered from 1 to 4. Stage of cancer is important to determine because it helps the treatment team to know which treatments one need.
A brief summary of what the stages mean for most types of cancer is given below. Cancer has four main stages but theses stages can be further divided like stage 3B cervical cancer and so on.
First stage of cancer means that a cancer is relatively small and can be treated. It means also that cancer is contained within the organ it started in.
Second stage usually means that although tumor size is relatively larger but cancer has not started to spread into surrounding tissue. Sometimes cancer cells have already spread into nearby lymph nodes.
Third stage means that cancer is larger. Surrounding tissues may also effected and lymph nodes are getting populated by cancer cells.
Forth stage, also termed as metastatic cancer, is alarming and it means that cancer has spread to another body organ also.