Did you know cancer was one of the leading causes of death in 2012 with about 8.2 million deaths. Only heart attacks, strokes and lung diseases have killed more people. Cancer deaths moreover are projected to double by 2020. The most common type of cancer in men are lung and prostate cancer and in women, breast and colorectal cancer.
Cancer has affected several members of my family. Many years before I was born, my dad’s sister and grandmother both died of cancer. In 2007, my dad’s mother passed away because of prostate cancer and my youngest brother never even met her. My uncle and grandfather both have cancer but seem to respond well to treatment. Cancer can affect anyone, but thankfully, only 1 in 100 cancers affect children ages 0-14 and young people ages 15-24. There is no single cure but there are an array of treatments that can help when diagnosed early. These treatments can include surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, gene therapy, etc.
So what is cancer? Cancer is a group of diseases that is characterized by out-of-control cell growth. There are over 100 types of cancer, each classified by the cell that is initially infected. Cancer causes harm when a damaged cell splits rapidly to form lumps called tumors. Tumors can grow and interfere with the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems. It also releases hormones that alter body function. Some tumors that only stay in one spot and show limited growth are considered benign (harmless). On the other hand, the more dangerous or malignant tumors can move around the body and destroy healthy tissues and organs in a process called invasion.
I used to think that cancer was hereditary. After reading articles, I found that out that life choices and genes are big factors. Unhealthy life choices such as smoking, heavy alcohol intake, exposure to sun or carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in the environment make a person more susceptible. Yet, there are a lot of healthy people who still get cancer. A Time magazine article wrote that some tumors can appear at random due to genetic bad luck, as illustrated in the picture. That is why vigilant screening to pick up the early signs can be life-saving. In addition, I would like to think that by living a healthy lifestyle, eating the right amounts fruits and vegetables, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, exercising at least 2 and a half hours a week and refraining from alcohol and tobacco, one can prevent cancer.