Updated: Jun 20, 2022
What is Cancer?
The impact of cancer on society is one that we cannot ignore. With billions in funds raised to fight this voracious “disease”, we are still sweating to find the ideal cure so far. To understand why the search has been difficult, one must first understand what cancer is.
It is colloquially known as a disease in which most cells grow and spread at an uncontrolled rate. But therein lies the misconception: cancer is not just one disease; it spans more than 200 diseases. There are different types of cancers, which makes the chase quite tricky. A complete and absolute cure is therefore impractical.
Here are crucial factors that shouldn’t be missed
Generally speaking, cancer cells differ from normal cells because of the considerable mutations in their DNA that cause them to spread excessively, ultimately exceeding the typical division rate. We can see that they develop very differently from normal cells. Cancer cells also differ on their own for the same reason. We found that cancer cells taken from the same tumor look very different. They are not easily killed in the body as they can perfectly trick the immune system as well. As a result, their survival rate increases somewhat, highlighting their strong determination to simply stay alive. We struggle to find effective ways to kill every cancerous cell because of this variation.
One mutation will not necessarily lead to cancer; there should be plenty of them. Mutations occur randomly and may or may not be harmful. In this case, the genetic modification is not beneficial. Cancer-associated genes could be tumor suppressor genes, for example. When a mutation occurs in this particular gene - so an abnormal change - it overshadows its entire purpose which is to repair mismatched DNA and control dead cells and the rate of cell division. Due to the change, cells will start to grow out of control and pick up many more mistakes in their DNA.
Resistance and Diverse Response to treatment and drugs
The unpredictability of response to treatment and medication appears to be another barrier. Treatments are sometimes considered ineffective because most cancer cells begin to develop resistance to them. These treatments include radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Treatments are done to kill dividing cells, which also endangers healthy, normal cells. For instance, drugs used for chemotherapy can also damage normal cells because they are usually too strong. This can lead to consequences on various organs correlated to the systems. For instance, a weakened immune system or hair loss. The reappearance of the cancer proves the ineffectiveness of the treatments because not all the cancerous cells are killed. These small areas of cancerous cells will eventually expand and grow massive enough for symptoms to return, which is a problem.
So what NOW?
With all this, we must not be discouraged but remember that all hope is not lost. Although we have not found a definitive cure, there are numerous preventive approaches and treatments for various cancers. Despite their limitations, this minimal progress should not be overlooked, and we can’t deny the successes of many cancer survivors either.
Preventive approaches include implementing a healthy diet, for example. Making healthy meal choices reduces the risk of developing cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer found that eating excessive amounts of processed meat can increase the risk of catching certain types of cancer in its report, so it would need to be minimized. Similarly, it has been proven by many researchers that tobacco consumption seems to be a key factor in the appearance of these genetic mutations leading to cancer. Thus, it is strongly recommended to avoid its use and choose to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
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