Human Disease: What is Cancer?

Have you ever seen wild grass grow in your gardens? Your mother would refer to it as unwanted and harmful to the other normal, healthy growing grass. Cancer is somewhat similar to the wild grass, in your garden of healthy functioning cells of your body.

The cells in your body forming tissues and organs help your body function and perform various activities like running, jumping, dancing etc. These cells keep on multiplying replacing the old or damaged cells. Once in a while, some cells are generated or the existing cells are mutated, which causes production of harmful cells, called as cancer cells. These cells do not work with the other cells, leading to hinderance in the daily working of the body.

WORD OF THE DAY: Mutation

Our body cells contain DNA, which the genetic material which contains the genetic information (like, facial features) which is passed on from one generation to another(like, from your parents to you). When this DNA experiences changes, it leads to production of cancer cells.

Cancer is non-communicable, which means that you cannot catch it from a person suffering from cancer, unlike common cold. Upon, mutation of cells, it leads to uncontrolled cell division. Due to this, these cancer cells together make it difficult for a body to function properly. These cells fight with the normal cells, for space, nutrition etc. The collection of these cells is called as tumor.

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FUN FACT: Did you know that there are different ways in which our DNA could be mutated? This can be due to the UV radiations from the sun, smoking tobacco, unchecked health, exposure to harmful chemicals etc. 

It’s easier to remove the wild grass from our gardens by simply plucking them, but do you think it’s the same for cancer cells? Sadly, the answer is no. The reason behind this being that every cancer is caused by a different set of genetic mutations in different types of cells. Because of this, the treatment which might work for an individual need not necessarily be the same for someone else too.

There are some basic procedures to kill cancer cells like chemotherapy or radiation. There’s a possibility that not all the cancer cells might be killed by this due to which cancer relapse becomes a possibility. At the same time, such radiations also can harm the healthy cells of our body.

Cancer cells can also travel to different parts of the body and start growing there. This is called as metastasis; making it difficult to remove the cancer cells from the body.

Types of Cancer

  • Breast cancer– cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts.
  • Leukemia– a cancer of the blood.
  • Lung cancer– cancer in the cells of the lungs.
  • Melanoma– skin cancer
  • Prostate cancer– a cancer of man’s prostate which carries seminal fluid

FUN FACT: There are certain food items that you can add to your diet which help fight cancer. These are green leafy vegetables, nuts, fresh fruits, whole grains, garlic etc. Avoid consuming alcohol, sweetened drinks, processed meat !!

Let’s have a quick check for understanding:

Q1. Cancer is good for the body.

a) True b)False

Q2. Cancer only happens to old age people, and not just anyone.

a)True b)False

Q3. Cancer is ______ disease.

a)communicable b)non-communicable c)depends on person to person

Q4. Cancer is caused by

a)mutation of DNA b)mutation of genetic material c)both a and b d)none of the above

Q5. Cancer treatments differ from person to person

a)True b)False

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