Cancer is a class of disease which is characterized by out-of-control growth of cells in our body. There are approximately 100 different types of cancer, whereby each type of cancer is classified by the type of cells that it initially attack. This disease harms the human body, when these altered cells mutates uncontrollably to form masses or lumps of tissues know as a tumor. Except for leukemia (blood cancer) where this fatal illness prohibits normal blood function by abnormal cell division in the blood stream. Cancerous tumors can grow and interfere with the nervous, circulatory and digestive systems in our body or can release hormones, which can alter the functioning of organs in the body.
However, cancerous tumors that demonstrate limited growth and stays in one spot, without multiplying further are generally considered as benign cancers. More dangerous or malignant tumors appear on the cancer patients when two things occur. Firstly, a cancerous cell manages to wade through the body using the lymphatic system or blood as a carrier agent, destroying all healthy cells in a process called ‘invasion’. And secondly, the cancerous cells manage to grow and divide, forming new blood vessels to feed itself in a process, which is known as ‘angiogenesis’. When cancerous tumors find success in spreading and growing in other parts of the body, destroying healthy cells by invading on the cells, this process is known as ‘metastasis’. Metastasis is a very serious condition for all cancer patients that is also very difficult to treat.
According to World Health Organization’s most recent data, there are 15 million new cases every year and 9.2 million cancer related deaths. According to oncology experts, they have also recently discovered an important clue as to why cancer cells spread. This has something to do with a process whereby the cancer cells use their adhesion (stickiness) properties. Scientists have found that certain molecular interaction between the cancer cells and the scaffolding extra cellular matrix that holds them in place, cause them to get unstuck from the original site, and getting dislodged, they travel to other places and then reattach themselves at the new site.
This is extremely important to know, since researchers say cancer mortality is mainly due to metastatic tumors, growths from the cells that have travelled far from their original site to another parts of the body. For it has been noted that only 10% of cancer patients die from their primary tumors.
Researchers are now trying to find a way to stop the cancer cells from sticking on to new sites so that they can interfere with the metastatic disease and can halt the growth of the secondary tumors from forming in the body. Cancer is the ultimate result of cells that uncontrollably grows and do not die. Normal cells in our body follow an orderly path, whereby they grow, divide and then die which in medical term is known as apoptosis. But unlike normal cells, cancerous cells do not obey this rule instead they continue to grow and divide, which eventually leads to a huge mass of abnormal cells that has grown out of control, which is the only known cause of this fatal disease.
Cancer is generally treated by long term medications, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.