Why Does Cancer Grow and Spread?

Cancer affects millions of people worldwide. Cancer research is ongoing, and many advances have been made throughout history to help identify the causes of cancer and how to treat it.

No matter your relationship with cancer, it is important to understand what it is and how it works. Knowing these basics can ensure you don’t feel in the dark about what a cancer diagnosis is and how its spread can affect a diagnosis. 

Because there are so many different types of cancer, treatment and the body’s response to treatment and outcomes can all vary widely. The most common type of cancer in the country is breast cancer, followed by prostate cancer and lung cancer. Worldwide, lung cancer is the leading form of the disease, followed closely by breast cancer. 

Cancer can be a condition caused by outside factors, like coal emissions, or it can be the result of habits like smoking or sunbathing. For some, cancer is the result of a genetic mutation that can be impossible to prevent without knowledge of the mutation. 

Normal Cell Conditions

To understand how cancer operates, it is important to understand how regular cells behave. Usually, the body’s DNA alerts the cells to the right time to grow and divide into new cells. During the division stage, healthy cells make an exact copy of themselves. Generally, this process only happens when cells get damaged or grow too old. For example, your DNA will trigger skin cells to make copies of themselves when you get a cut or a scrape. This replaces the damaged skin with new skin cells.

Cancer Origin and Growth

Rather than growing old and dying like a normal cell, cancer cells continually grow and divide without the need to do so. They remain immature, rather than aging like normal cells. These cells continue to reproduce out of control, avoiding the body’s signals to stop, and evading the immune system’s attempts to stop them. 

These cancerous cells break apart easily, making movement to other parts of the body possible. To spread, cancerous cells use the lymphatic and blood systems to travel. In their new destinations, they continue to grow. While they grow, they can damage organs that they inhibit or run into. 

Cancer Treatment

To stop cancer, doctors attempt to remove or destroy the cells that are replicating out of control. Sometimes, when caught early, they can use surgery to remove the cells in the area. When they are gone, there are no copies that continue to reproduce.

Radiation attempts to kill the cancerous cells by damaging the cells’ DNA. In doing this, they stop reproducing out of control. With chemotherapy methods, doctors use drugs to try to kill the cancer cells in the body.

As science develops, more methods of treatment are becoming available. Hormone therapy, immunotherapy, stem cell replacement, and targeted therapies are all valid options for some patients, depending on their circumstances. There is also research being done to better understand how klotho proteins can help suppress tumor growth, inhibit metastases and improve survival rates. Klotho.com outlines each of these. 

The trick to all cancer therapies is ensuring that all the cells are removed. If even one is left, it can continue to duplicate, and the cancer can return.

Early Detection

The best way to stop cancer in its tracks is to catch it early in the process. Once the cells have divided out of control and spread to other parts of the body, it is much more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to remove them all. 

When the cancer is still in its initial location, it is much easier to use surgery to remove the cancer rather than using chemotherapy and radiation. Regular cancer screenings make this detection possible. 

Resources:

https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/worldwide-cancer-data/

https://cancer.ca/en/treatments/treatment-types

https://cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/what-is-cancer/how-cancer-starts-grows-and-spreads

https://www.cancer.gov/types/common-cancers


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