1. About cancer
A general term for abnormal cell growth and its uncontrolled spread. Cancer cells may grow into a lump called a malignant tumour. They may invade and damage surrounding tissue. Some may also break away from the original (primary) cancer and travel in the blood or lymphatic system to other parts of the body, where they form secondary tumours (metastases). The five main types of cancer are carcinomas, sarcomas, myelomas, lymphomas and leukaemia. Cancers at different sites in the body are discussed individually.
These cancer cells grow in an abnormal fashion, which means that the usual checks and controls that exist for the different cells in the body have been removed. As a result, cancer cells are able to continually replicate and so they increase in number.
Cells that grow abnormally are not neccessarily cancers. A benign tumour is a growth of cells in an abnormal fashion but is not a cancer. Another distinguishing feature of a cancer is its ability to spread, or metastasize. This means that cancer cells can learn to live in places in the body that are distant from where the cancer started.
Cancers appear at all ages but, typically, childhood ones are unlikely after age 18, and adult ones tend (with a few exceptions) to appear after age 40-60. About one person in three will develop a cancer in their life-time (not including skin cancers which two out of three will get).
There are over 200 different types of cancers known. One thing is common to all these different cancers though: they are all growing out of control.
Cancers usually take years to grow to a point where they threaten someone’s life. The growth rate is often thought to increase as the cancer enlarges but, as mentioned above, the rate of growth is usually constant. However this translates into a more rapid increase in size the bigger the tumour becomes. It may take as long as 10 years for a cancer to become apparent, but it may be only 1-2 years for a more rapid one to become visible.
2. Few words from statistics
Cancer is the second largest cause of death in Europe. Every year in Slovakia approximatelly 25 000 people die of cancer.
3. Ways of cancer treatment
Most used methods of the cancer treatment are:
- surgery, which is a removal of affected tissue by an operation;
- chemotherapy, which is using drugs or medicine;
There are a large number of different drugs that are used to treat cancer. Each type of cancer is only sensitive to particular drugs and there are many different types of drugs. In most cases a combination of drugs is given at the same time in order to maximise the efficiency of the treatment and in order to prevent the cancer cells from becoming resistant to the therapy. This is called combination chemotherapy. This combination of drugs (also known as a drug regimen) is tailored to each type of cancer so that side-effects are minimised, while benefits are maximised.
Chemotherapy may be given in tablet or capsules form, or by injection or infusion (slowly via a intravenous drip).
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1. About cancer