Cancer Still Remains a Mystery

I sometimes feel as if cancer is spreading like cancer all around me. My mother died of cancer last year. She developed breast cancer a couple of years ago and refused to undergo mastectomy despite doctors’ advice. She said that she would not like to have her body disfigured; she thus opted for radiation and remained healthy for a few years until the dreadful disease re-emerged and this time with a vengeance. Drastic measures had to be taken including mastectomy and chemotherapy but she eventually died of lung cancer peacefully without anyone noticing, including myself, while I was lying next to her talking on the phone holding her hand.

And then in addition to my mother, I invariably hear about somebody I know becoming a victim of this strange dreadful diseases. I have no explanation as to why fewer males get it.

Cancer no doubt is a frightful disease but gives warnings most of the time like other ailments. It is described by doctors and scientists as a state in our body where normal cells undergo a transformation and grow and multiply without normal controls. As the cells multiply, they form an area of abnormal cells which we call a tumor. As more and more cells are produced, the tumor increases in size and overwhelms surrounding tissues by invading their space and taking the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive and function.

Tumors can be malignant or non malignant. They are regarded as malignant when they grow uncontrollably and encroach on and invade neighboring tissues. Malignant tumors may also travel to remote organs through the bloodstream or through the lymphatic system which explains cancer spreading to other parts of the body. This process of invading and spreading to other organs is called metastasis.

It is for this very reason that if abnormal cells are found anywhere in the body, a search for these abnormal cells in other parts of the body is warranted; and this explains the predicament of the doctors being unsure as to whether a patient is cancer free or not.

There are said to be about 200 types of cancer and many are named after the cell types.

The state of cancer in the body is classified by stages based on the assessment as to how deeply the malignant cells have invaded the healthy cells. It may be superficial or it may be invasive where it may at least have penetrated the muscular layer.

In addition to the stage, the grading which is the degree of abnormality observed in a microscopic evaluation of the tumor helps provide important information and can help guide treatment. Cells from a high-grade cancer have more changes in form and have a greater degree of abnormality when viewed microscopically than do cells from a low-grade tumor. Low-grade tumors are less aggressive.

High-grade tumors are more dangerous and have a propensity to become invasive.

The above may not be so difficult to understand then to answer the question as to what exactly causes it. We all know that prevention is better than cure. We all perhaps may try to prevent it if we knew exactly what to avoid. Unfortunately however, the message is highly confusing as news about substances which can cause cancer, known as carcinogens sometimes appear to cover almost everything, ranging from sunlight to the use of mobile phones to watching television to smoking to being fat to being exposed to lots of things.

Ironically, many people we know fell into the cancer trap without falling into the types of folks who are using or exposed to carcinogens. For instance, we are told that smoking causes lung cancer but many non-smokers get it while majority of the smokers do not. X-ray is sometimes blamed for cancer but employees working with the x-ray machines may not get it despite working with them for years.

There is thus no easy answer as to what triggers it. Apparently, it is a combination of a few factors. Our DNA probably has something to do with it as it gets mutated; the DNA factor thus may explain as to why some get it and others do not, despite using the same product.

There is no institute in the country as far as I know which is doing extensive research in the field of cancer. Some hospitals specializing in cancer have limited research facilities but we seldom get to hear their findings. This means that we have to rely on the research done in other countries for the causes and nature of cancer spreading inPakistan.

It is important to find out as certain cancers are more prevalent and common in some geographical locations than others. For example, stomach cancer is 5-6 times higher among Japanese men, attributed to the consumption of fermented foods; breast cancer is 20 times higher among American women, attributed to the high fat American diet; and liver cancer is 10 times higher in Africa, which correlates with high rates of Hepatitis B infection and a food contaminant aflatoxin which is said to be prevalent in grain stores in tropical and subtropical regions.

I have no words of wisdom for you in the end. You may be living an extremely healthy lifestyle; may not be smoking and may be exercising and of course eating raw fruits and vegetables all the time. And you may still get cancer. So perhaps moderation is the key-word in this case. In other words, do whatever you wish to do but not in excess and enjoy each and every day, for who knows about tomorrow…………..!

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