Cancer: How It Affects the Body and Treatment

Cancer. The big C word. All have heard of it, maybe even know someone who has had it, or passed from it. It’s one of the deadliest and increasingly popular diseases affecting Americans with an estimated 1.9 million cases being reported in 2021. But how does cancer begin? What is causing it? And if one is diagnosed with it, how can it be treated?

What is Cancer and how does it form?

Cancer is essentially a miscommunication within the signaling of cells, causing the overproduction of mutated cells to occur in its interphase stage in mitosis. The interphase is a very important step as it is where a cell replicates itself and prepares to split to become a new cell. When this miscommunication occurs, cells can begin to overproduce, causing a tumor mass to form. With enough mutated cells behaving abnormally in this tumor, cancer can form. Cancer can also form in the blood by the mutations of cells building up in the blood or bone marrow. A big concern arises when cells become cancerous and split, allowing cancer to essentially duplicate and spread.

What causes Cancer?

Cancer can be caused by a variety of factors and new causes are still being found today. Environmental factors, chemical exposure, and hereditary genetics seem to be the biggest causes now.

Environmental and Chemical exposure:

Sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid risks that have the potential to cause cancer. Pollution exposure is becoming harder to keep away from every year as air quality and water quality decrease. Additionally, some household or socially acceptable substances also cause cancer. Some of these are:

  • Tobacco in all its forms: the most common environmental risk for cancer. These can be cigarettes, vapes, pipes, chewing tobacco, cigars, pipes, etc. Secondhand smoke from tobacco is also a cause of cancer.
  • Alcohol consumption: is linked to many forms of cancer such as liver, breast, esophageal, and colorectal cancers.
  • Obesity
  • UV radiation: causes cancer primarily by indoor/outdoor tanning.
  • Asbestos
  • Certain viruses: HPV causes most cervical cancers and chronic hepatitis B or C is linked to liver cancer.

Genetics:

Cell mutations can be passed down from mother to child by a mutated sperm cell or egg cell via an inherited gene mutation. Due to this, the chances of someone developing cancer if another family member is much higher. For example, if a mother develops breast cancer, the risk of the daughter developing it too is doubled and is almost 5 times higher than the national average. Thankfully, not all forms of cancer are hereditary, but it is still a factor for the cause of its formation in the first place.

Treatment:

There are many types of treatments for cancer.  Some may only need one of the treatments, but many require a combination of treatments to fully fight off cancer. Some of these include:

  • Chemotherapy: uses drugs to fight off cancer.
  • Hormone therapy: slows or stops the growth of prostate/breast cancers that rely on hormones to grow and spread.
  • Hyperthermia: body tissue is heated to destroy cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: helps the immune system fight cancer.
  • Photodynamic therapy: utilizes a drug activated by light to kill cancer cells.
  • Stem cell transplant: helps to restore stem cells for those whose stem cells were destroyed by chemotherapy.
  • Surgery: to remove cancer itself.
  • Targeted therapy: targets cancer cells in the cell cycle where it divides and spreads.

Cancer is becoming more popular as risks and factors are increasing every year. The best way to prevent it from developing as obvious as it sounds is by regular testing if it is found in a closely related family member, but also with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Additionally, avoiding substances such as tobacco and alcohol and limited exposure to other chemicals linked to cancer is another essential way to prevent its development.

Sources:

Cancer facts & figures 2021. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2021.html#:~:text=The%20Facts%20%26%20Figures%20annual%20report,deaths%20in%20the%20United%20States.)

Cancer facts & figures 2021. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2021.html#:~:text=The%20Facts%20%26%20Figures%20annual%20report,deaths%20in%20the%20United%20States.)

The cell cycle. CancerQuest. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2022, from https://www.cancerquest.org/cancer-biology/cell-cycle

Mercadante AA, Kasi A. Genetics, Cancer Cell Cycle Phases. [Updated 2021 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK563158/

Family History. BreastCancer.org. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2022, from https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/risk-factors/family-history

Family cancer syndromes. American Cancer Society. (2020, August 5). Retrieved July 22, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/healthy/cancer-causes/genetics/family-cancer-syndromes.html

One Comment

  1. I believe Erika’s objective was to describe the stages of mitosis. She described cancer as a miscommunication within the signaling of cells, causing an overproduction of mutated cells to be made during the interphase stage of mitosis. The objective was met with the topic by describing the stage in mitosis in which cancer begins. I appreciate how Erika took the objective beyond the course by informing her readers about the potential causes of cancer. In particular, the list of environmental factors that can cause cancer gives her readers the opportunity to be aware of environmental factors that they may be exposed to on a daily bases that could place them at risk for developing cancer. Her research on cancer cells and treatments for cancer were well done. I understand that her topic was about how cancer cells affect the body however I found the topic of her project and essay to focus more on the causes of cancer and different treatment. Her Steam project had a wonderful illustration of one type of treatment which is Immunotherapy. Erika stated that this type of treatment helps the immune system fight cancer. I would have slightly adjusted the topic of the steam project or I would have gone into more detail about the specifics of how cancer can affect the body; for example, common symptoms of cancer may have been interesting to learn about.

    Lauren Mai

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