Cancer. A word that can lift all of the hairs on your skin when heard. Our body consists of millions of cells in different sorts and forms. Muscle cells look different than other cells in our body, such as in our feet. All of these cells, in principle, can divide themselves.
Different types of cancer
Cancer is a word to define various cancerous diseases. However, they all have some characteristics in common: cells in our body that constantly can and do divide themselves. The difference between a normal cell and a cancer cell is that the latter originates (is born) from a deformed cell where something did not go right in the material (foundation) of the cell. Consequently, this cell starts to divide itself completely wrong. The mistake in the cell clones itself and continues to enter other cells from two to four to eight etc. This is how a tumor can be born. A tumor is similar to a piece of flesh that grows.
The division continues to multiply, and the production of corpuscles in the blood can get disrupted. Consequently, the blood will produce too much or unnecessary corpuscles. With time, malignant tumors start to grow in the surrounding woven. Sometimes, tumor cells break and float in the blood, or they go into the lymph vessels. Sometimes, these cells that have gotten loose (micrometastases) go and get stuck in other parts of the body, where they grow and form new tumors. These are called metastases.
When a diagnosis is determined, the doctor prescribes a treatment plan. The best treatment for the patient depends on the type of cancer they have and the physical and emotional condition they are in.
Different types of treatment
There are different types of cancer treatments, but the most known ones are:
- Surgery: Surgery ensures the complete or partial removal of the tumor. Sometimes it is also opted to remove a layer of the tissue around the tumor. In this way, surgery tries to avoid giving the cancer cells which have stationed themselves less chance to start growing again. One can also choose to remove some lymph nodes in the surrounding area since the metastases like to station themselves in the lymph nodes first.
- Radiotherapy: Here, direct radiation on the tumor to kill the cancer cells is used. With radiotherapy, the aim is to only target the tumor to avoid that healthy tissues don’t get exposed. The good news is that nowadays the equipment is more sophisticated and this can be avoided.
- Chemotherapy: This is a way to kill cancer cells. This happens by the chemical products called cytostatics. History shows that the first cytostatics was discovered in 1945 by coincidence. This opened the door for more effective medicine to be developed. Today, we can see that there are multiple types of cytostatics. Sometimes, doctors opt for using a combination of cytostatics to avoid that the patient experiences side effects, and to avoid that the cancer cells become resistant to the cytostatics (meaning they do not respond anymore to the medication). It’s good to know that every chemotherapy is a treatment on its own. Not only does the doctor need to choose multiple medications, but they also need to decide the amount and different ways to supply these to the patient.
- Hormonal treatments, for example, in some cases of breast cancer.
- Targeted therapy.
- Immune Therapy: Immune therapy is a treatment where the natural defense mechanism in our bodies are manipulated and reinforced against cancer. There are different types of immune therapy such as monoclonal antibodies treatment (artificially fabricated proteins), cytokines treatment, vaccines, or gene therapy. The last two mentioned are still in the experimental phase). Immune therapy is generally given in combination with chemotherapy.
- Sometimes a combination of the abovementioned treatments is given.