Cancer: A brief Introduction

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Human body is the most amazing machine in the world. The way it functions, the way it hosts innumerable reactions, which we can’t mimic in the laboratories, the way it differentiates into a six foot tall stature from a single celled zygote – all are incredulous!

The complexity of this machinery goes to such an extent that a little dysfunction is not very uncommon. Sometimes the body can repair it by itself, sometimes by external diagnosis, but sometimes they’re irreparable. We shall, in this article talk about one of such malfunctions of our body: Cancer.

cancer cell

First, we’ll see the mechanism of the disease, and then we’ll move on to the symptoms, followed by the diagnosis and a bit of precautions.

On the elementary level, we’re all made up of cells – the smallest building blocks of what we call the life. Yeah, when you were a small kid, you had smaller number of cells. Your cells kept dividing and you kept growing in size. And then there came a time when the rate of formation of new cells became equal to the rate of their death, and thus you stopped growing – as simple as that. Every time a cell divides, 120,000 mistakes are done while copying the DNA! Well don’t worry, this 120,000 is out of 1,000,000,000. The accuracy rate of 99.988% is not that bad. Still, some of these mistakes could wind up quite harmful. Some of them could even make the cell behave abnormally making them stimulate their own measures of growth and division. Mutations causing such changes could create a set of disease which the medical people have termed as cancer. So, every time a cell divides, how-so-ever small it be, there are always chances of developing it into a cancer cell. So, probabilistically, you’ve been producing the cancer cells since you were born.

point_mutation

Human body has its own machinery to get rid of such errors that may cause mutation, which rectifies approximately a little over than 99% of such errors. Many of the remaining cancer cells are destroyed by phagocytes. They eat up the abnormal cell and transmit the message throughout the body about the whereabouts of such cancer cell. Immune cells haunt them down the way Wolverine kills his enemies. Now, you may ask me what about the remaining ones, huh? There are always some smartass villains who keep defying the superheroes. So, a few cells in a few cases defy the immune system and the autocorrect machinery of the body and they become stronger after accumulations of mutations after mutations in time. Cancer cells just keep dividing and dividing and dividing at unregulated and quickened pace. There is a protein called telomerase in our body. Its job is to add the telomere (a telomere is just a DNA sequence at the ends of chromosome). Every time a cell divides, this telomere gets shortened by some specified length. With time, all this telomere gets exhausted and the cell no longer divides. This is how cell-division is regulated in a healthy cell. While in cancer cells, the protein telomerase just keeps on adding the telomere. They don’t exhaust and the cells don’t stop dividing. Result? A tumour. Which may block or malfunction the adjacent tissues. Which may spread throughout the body and cause even more harm. This is what cancer is.

telomere

There could be many external stimulating causes of cancer. Be it tobacco, or alcohols or drugs. Exposure to the ultraviolet radiations are also known to cause such erroneous mutations in the cells which get accumulated and stacked up in time to cause cancer. Cancer could be inherited genetically too. If either of your parents or grandparents had cancer, you have the genes. You may develop cancer at some later age. Just a matter of time or external stimulants.

As much as we’ve discovered into medical sciences, there’s not a single test that can accurately diagnose cancer. There are many tests which are to be performed just to be sure if it’s cancer or not. A variety of blood tests, urine tests and tumour marker tests are done to completely confirm the presence of the disease. For example, the white blood cells fight against the many diseases, so higher levels of it in the blood sample would give the indications of some infection. Similarly, the tumour markers would help in the identification of the tumours in the body.

chemotherapy

Well, if detected at earlier stages, cancer can be cured. By now, there are 5 methods known for treating cancer. We’ll see the major ones:

Surgery – Just cut-off all those cancer cells from the body. No more cells, no more division, no more disease. A surgery carefully done would completely remove all the harmful cells, without damaging the body.

Chemotherapy – The patient is given some specific chemicals which move through the body and kill the rapidly dividing cells. Yeah, they could be harmful because even stem cells divide rapidly.

Radiotherapy

Radiation Therapy – Ionizing radiations, the higher frequency ranged ones are fired towards the cancerous cells. They damage the DNA of those cells, thus making them unable to divide. The problem here is that the method is not much accurate. It could also kill the healthy cells.

Cancer is a life-threatening disease. It must be taken seriously. As a note of precaution, you should stick to a healthy lifestyle excluding tobacco and excessive of oily foods. Health comes first!

another muggle :|