If you’ve not had a close encounter with cancer, you can consider yourself lucky. Some research has shown that as many as 50% of all Americans will have some type of cancer in their lives.
Cancer is usually used synonymously with the term ‘carcinoma’. However, in strict medical terms, this interchangeable use is incorrect.
Cancer researchers at Odonate Therapeutics share some of their knowledge about this dangerous illness. Simply put, cancer is a term used to describe illnesses caused by abnormal cell growth and division. However, the story needs to be expanded a bit more in order to understand it more clearly.
What Is Cancer?
Cells in your body reproduce and divide all the time, billions and trillions of times a day. The code for creating new cells is safely stored in your DNA in each of your cells.
However, if the information becomes corrupted somehow, a cancer can develop. Whether caused by external factors like radiation, or sun damage, or internal factors like chemicals we ingest or just a miscommunication between the cells, if the cell is not destroyed by the body, tumors can develop and spread.
Are All Tumors Cancer?
Even though the word tumor has a negative connotation and is even used synonymously with cancer, not all tumors are cancerous. Benign tumors do not cause immediate problems like cancer does, but they can cause different types of problems, especially if they continue to grow and press on important organs.
However, malignant tumors are cancerous and they cause a lot of problems in the body, especially because malignant tumors tend to spread to the surrounding tissues and even all over the body if they spread to the lymphatic or cardiovascular systems.
If the cancer spreads out of the original tissue, it is considered metastatic – making it a lot more difficult to contain and treat.
Different Types of Cancer
As mentioned before, cancer is an umbrella term which encompasses a number of similar illnesses. However, cancer researcher, oncologists and other cancer specialists tend to use more specific names which sometimes spill over to regular speech (often with less accuracy).
The most commonly known term, carcinoma is used to refer to types of cancer which originate in the skin or in the lining tissues of internal organs. These cells are called epithelial cells and the damage to these cells typically comes from the external factors, especially sun damage in the case of skin cancer.
Blastoma is caused by the corruption of precursor cells – a type of stem cells. These types of cancers are more common in children, as they have more of these precursor cells, also known as blasts.
Sarcoma is a cancer which originates in connective tissues of the body, such as bones, cartilage, and muscles. However, if the cancer originates elsewhere and metastasizes to these tissues, it is considered a secondary cancer.
Lymphoma and Myeloma
These two types of cancer are similar and often packed together because they’re both blood cancers, specifically white blood cell cancers which influences the immune system. Lymphomas develop from the corruption of lymphocytes – white blood cells. On the other hand, myeloma, often named multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells – a type of white blood cells.
Leukemia is often called blood cancer, but it is technically not true. The reason why this is the case is because it originates in the bone marrow. However, since bone marrow creates blood cells, leukemia causes blood problems.
Knowing more about cancer may not be pleasant, but it may be important to you if you or someone you love find yourself fighting this nasty disease. And knowing more gives you a better starting point.