Cancer is one of the most widespread diseases in the world. Malignant, the disease can occur in various organs and tissues and, without treatment, can lead to the death of the patient. The National Cancer Institute (Inca) estimates that every year 309,000 men and 316,000 women in Brazil are diagnosed with some type of neoplasm.
But what exactly is cancer? According to the institute, the disease is defined by a “disordered growth of cells, which can invade adjacent tissues or organs from a distance”.
Due to several factors including genetics and lifestyle, a cell undergoes a genetic mutation and starts functioning incorrectly. If the contact ceases (the person quits smoking for example), the carcinogenic process is often interrupted and the cell functions normally again.
“The alterations can occur in special genes, called proto-oncogenes, which are initially inactive in normal cells. When activated, proto-oncogenes become oncogenes, responsible for transforming normal cells into cancerous cells,” explains the Inca site.
Division occurs aggressively and uncontrollably, creating clumps of cells called tumors. Groups are normally able to form new blood vessels to provide nutrition and growth.
When the cancer starts in the epithelial tissues, such as the skin, the membrane that covers the organs or the mucous membranes, it is called carcinoma. If it begins in connective tissues, such as bones, muscles or cartilage, it is called sarcoma.
Cancer cells can also break away from the tumor and move around the body, invading nearby tissues or traveling through the blood or lymph to other organs – this process is called metastasis.
When they reach a tissue, the cancerous cells replace the normal cells and, since they are not specialized, the tissues gradually lose their function. When found in the lungs, for example, they can cause respiratory changes and the consequent death of part of the organ.
Doesn’t the body defend itself against cancer?
When normal cells divide the wrong way, the body’s defense mechanisms organize and eliminate them.
According to Inca, disturbances in the production of substances specialized in the regulation of cell growth and maturation, as well as in the activity of lymphocytes that attack cancer cells, can cause various diseases, including cancer – with the defense unusable, the malignant cells can become multiply without any interruption.
types of cancer
Cancer can appear anywhere in the body, but some organs are more affected by the disease than others. There are also different types of more or less aggressive tumors depending on their starting point. Here are some of the most common cancers, according to the institute:
- body of the uterus
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- First melanoma
- melanoma-free skin
- Brain and spinal cord
how is the treatment
In general, treatment involves surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplantation, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy. The course of action against the disease depends on the patient’s state of health and cancer situation, and often the doctor can combine several options to optimize the treatment.
How to prevent
According to Inca, at least 30% of cancer cases can be prevented through lifestyle changes. A healthy diet, regular physical activity, reduced consumption of processed meats, alcoholic beverages and cigarettes can prevent at least 12 types of tumors, for example.
Another important factor is the HPV vaccine for girls aged 9 to 14 and boys aged 11 to 14, as well as the hepatitis B vaccine for the general population — vaccinators are decreasing risks of cervical and liver cancer, respectively. .
Avoiding sun exposure without adequate sun protection is also an important part of preventing the development of skin cancer, for example.
In addition, it is essential to get periodic screening tests and seek medical attention as soon as you notice any strange symptoms.