Cancer Care Newsletter Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Cancer Care Newsletter Thursday, December 18, 2014

 Cancer Information

Cancer is not just one disease but rather a group of diseases, all of which cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Cancers are classified either according to the kind of fluid or tissue from which they originate, or according to the location in the body where they first developed. In addition, some cancers are of mixed types. 

What causes cancer?
There is no one single cause for cancer. Scientists believe that it is the interaction of many factors together that produces cancer. The factors involved may be genetic, environmental, or lifestyle characteristics of the individual.
 
What are the risk factors for cancer?
As mentioned, some cancers, particularly in adults, have been associated with certain risk factors. A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. A risk factor does not necessarily cause the disease, but it may make the body less resistant to it. People who have an increased risk of developing cancer can help to protect themselves by scheduling regular screenings and check-ups with their physician and avoiding certain risk factors. Cancer treatment has been proven to be more effective when the cancer is detected early. The following risk factors and mechanisms have been proposed as contributing to the development of cancer:
 
Lifestyle factors
Lifestyle factors such as smoking, a high-fat diet, and exposure to ultraviolet light (UV radiation from the sun) may be risk factors for some adult cancers. Most children with cancer, however, are too young to have been exposed to these lifestyle factors for any extended time.
 
Genetic factors
Family history, inheritance, and genetics may play an important role in some adult and childhood cancers. It is possible for cancer of varying forms to be present more than once in a family. Some gene alterations are inherited. However, this does not necessarily mean that the person will develop cancer. It indicates that the chance of developing cancer increases. It is unknown in these circumstances if the disease is caused by a genetic mutation, other factors, or simply coincidence.
 
Virus exposure
Exposures to certain viruses, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV; the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS), have been linked to an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers. Possibly, the virus alters a cell in some way. That cell then reproduces an altered cell and, eventually, these alterations become a cancer cell that produces more cancer cells. Cancer is not contagious and a person cannot contract cancer from another person who has the disease.
 
Environmental exposures
Environmental exposures have been linked to some cancers. For example, people who have certain jobs (such as painters, farmers, construction workers, and those in the chemical industry) seem to have an increased risk of some cancers, likely due to regular exposure to certain chemicals. Other exposures may occur in the home or elsewhere, such as radon (a radioactive gas) in some homes.
 
How do genes affect cancer growth?
The discovery of certain types of genes that contribute to cancer has been an extremely important development for cancer research. Virtually all cancers are observed to have some type of genetic alteration. A small percentage (5 to 10 percent) of these alterations are inherited, while the rest are sporadic, which means they occur by chance or occur from environmental exposures (usually over many years). There are three main types of genes that can affect cell growth, and are altered (mutated) in certain types of cancers, including the following:
 
Oncogenes
These genes regulate the normal growth of cells, causing them to grow. Scientists commonly describe oncogenes as similar to a cancer "switch" that most people have in their bodies. What "flips the switch" to make these oncogenes suddenly allow abnormal cancer cells to begin to grow is unknown.
 
Tumor suppressor genes
These genes are able to recognize abnormal growth and reproduction of damaged cells, or cancer cells, and can interrupt their reproduction until the defect is corrected. If the tumor suppressor genes are mutated, however, and they do not function properly, tumor growth may occur.
 
Mismatch-repair genes
These genes help recognize errors when DNA is copied to make a new cell. If the DNA does not "match" perfectly, these genes repair the mismatch and correct the error. If these genes are not working properly, however, errors in DNA can be transmitted to new cells, causing them to be damaged.
 
Usually, the number of cells in any of our body tissues is tightly controlled so that new cells are made for normal growth and development, as well as to replace dying cells. Ultimately, cancer is a loss of this balance due to genetic alterations that "tip the balance" in favor of excessive cell growth.
 
How do childhood and adult cancers differ?
Diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis for childhood cancers are different than for adult cancers. The main differences are the survival rate and the cause of the cancer. The five year survival rate for childhood cancer is about 80 percent, while in adult cancers the five year survival rate is 68 percent. This difference is thought to be because childhood cancer is more responsive to therapy, and a child can tolerate more aggressive therapy.
 
Childhood cancers often occur or begin in the stem cells, which are simple cells capable of producing other types of specialized cells that the body needs. A sporadic (occurs by chance) cell change or mutation is usually what causes childhood cancer. In adults, the type of cell that becomes cancerous is usually an "epithelial" cell, which is one of the cells that line the body cavity, including the surfaces of organs, glands, or body structures, and cover the body surface. Cancer in adults usually occurs from environmental exposures to these cells over time. Adult cancers are sometimes referred to as "acquired" for this reason.

 Upcoming Events

Dec 14    Introduction to Diabetes Class - Dec 14, 2011 Camp Hill Giant Super Food Store
 
Dec 16   Family and Friends CPR /Cardiac Patients - 2011 - Brady Building
 
Dec 22   Pre-Operative Spine Class
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