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What is Cancer? Going back to basics

When cells divide without control they become cancerous and are able to invade other tissues. These cells lose control by having a number of changes in their genes (genes are the basic unit by which genetic information is passed from parent to offspring). Genes that are involved in cell division, growth, ageing, self-repair or death, become stuck in a state of activity or inactivity. Below shows a diagram how genetic abnormal changes can lead to cells dividing uncontrollably and potentially invading other tissue.

Exactly how and when normal cells become cancerous is still unknown, but may involve exposure to chemicals, smoke, radiation or an infection, which damages the genes.

As cancer cells grow they clump together to form a lump called a tumour. It can take months or years for a cancer lump to be felt or to be detected, depending on how fast the cells are dividing. There are two main types of tumours; benign and malignant. Benign tumour means it is not cancerous and is made up of normal cells and does not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumours are cancerous and usually grow faster than benign tumours; they can spread to other tissues either locally or to other parts of the body.

Unfortunately 1 in 3 people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime. Cancers are divided into groups according to the type of cell they start from. They include:

Carcinoma — cancer that begins in the skin or tissue that line the organs

Lymphoma and myeloma—cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system

Leukaemia—cancer that forms in the blood forming tissue such as the bone marrow

Sarcoma— cancer that begins in the bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, or blood vessels

Brain and spinal cord tumour— abnormal cells in the brain or spinal cord, collectively known as the central nervous system (CNS) cancers

There are more than 200 different types of cancer; however the more common types of cancers are:

Breast cancer— this may lead to unusual changes in the appearance of your breast including lumps, changes in texture, rashes or nipple discharge.

Lung cancer— the two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer is usually caused by smoking.

Prostate cancer— the prostate’s main job is to help make semen (the fluid that carries sperm). Some men develop urinary problems if they have prostate cancer.

Bowel cancer—depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer; bowel cancer is curable if diagnosed early. Colon cancer is increasing among younger people and can be mistaken for less serious conditions.

If you experience any unusual symptoms over a period of time, it is important to find out the underlining cause and to rule out the possibility of cancer (see blog 2 for further information).

Here at YouGlo Laboratories we can help you access your health.