World Cancer Day is celebrated. Patients and their loved ones often have multiple questions about this terrible disease. Here our answers:
Today is celebrated World Cancer Day. The incidence in Spain in 2012, according to SEOM, was more than 200,000 cases. This disease is much more complex than it initially seemed. Lung cancer is not the same as ovarian cancer. That is why it is also said that cancer is actually a group of diseases.
The history of cancer dates back to the times of ancient civilizations. It was in Egypt where humanity first faced this disease, documenting the first clinical cases in the Edwin Smith papyrus. Thousands of years have passed, and we are still trying to answer the uncertain questions that assail us when a close person suffers from cancer.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a disorder that occurs when our cells begin to divide uncontrollably and autonomously. If they also have the ability to invade other tissues (both locally and at a distance), we will find ourselves facing a malignant tumor.
Each of our cells has mechanisms to accelerate and slow down its life cycle. In cancer, as in life, if these regulatory factors fail, it is possible that our car (cells) suffers an accident. For this reason, it is essential to improve diagnostic methods and especially, avoid harmful habits that could damage these control mechanisms, such as tobacco or a sedentary lifestyle.
Is it hereditary?
Research has been investigating the genetic origin of cancer for some time. Does this mean that cancer is hereditary? No. Cancer is not hereditarybut what our ancestry can transmit to us is a genetic mutation that favors the development of this disease.
If our parents or a sibling have suffered from cancer, we should worry more than if a distant relative has suffered from it. Because? The probability that the genetic mutation has been transmitted to us is greater. However, it is important to highlight that the type of cancer also plays a role. For example, cancer of the adrenal cortex has a high risk of becoming ‘familial cancer’, even when there is only one medical case.
Fortunately, science has advanced a lot in recent years. Today it is possible to identify genetic mutations associated with some types of cancer, as occurs in certain breast tumors, making it easier to perform a early and effective detectionand even customize some treatments.
Why can children get cancer?
It is often said that this disorder is a disease associated with aging. It is logical: as the years progress, our cells are more likely to accumulate errors in their DNA that cause the appearance of a malignant tumor.
Why are some children diagnosed with cancer? For one thing, they may have inherited a ‘fatal’ mutation in their genome. On the other hand, we must not forget that Embryonic development is the phase where most cell divisions occurand therefore, the more likely it is to acquire some harmful genetic change.
Is there a cancer epidemic?
The increase in the number of cancer cases may make us think that there is an epidemic of this disorder. However, this is not so. Cancer, as we said at the beginning, has been known since ancient Egypt. It is not a modern disease.
The reason that explains the increase in cancer is none other than the improvement in tumor diagnosis. Little by little we are able to detect this disease earlier, and therefore, have a greater chance that the treatments will be effective.
We must not forget, however, the influence that environmental factors have on our health. Not everything is in the genes. That is why it is essential that we follow good habits, avoiding tobacco consumption (responsible for 90% of lung cancer cases) or a sedentary lifestyle.
The arrival of innovative treatments, such as immunotherapy, offer light for patients, families and healthcare professionals. On World Cancer Day, we must continue fighting against a disease as cruel as it is close. Let’s not lose hope.
Images | Susan Arnold (Wikimedia), Skeeze (Pixabay)