Skin cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, and so on. We know that cancer is bad, but what is cancer exactly? The truth is that not a lot of people are familiar with the exact mechanism behind how cancer spreads and contributes to mortality. Living as healthy of a life as possible and seeking appropriate treatment when necessary is all good and fine, but it’s helpful to be educated about such matters, especially when cancer is such a leading cause of death in our country. Understanding what cancer is and what exactly is going on in the body is an important way to empower patients who may be afflicted with this unfortunate condition.
Our bodies contain a ton of cells. Seriously, like lots of them. Cells make up everything in our bodies: our skin, our brains, our organs, and so on. Our bodies have the ability to keep making cells, which is a good thing because we lose so many on a daily basis. When you accidentally scrape your knee, you’re losing some skin and blood cells there. Then the cells flip a switch and start reproducing to replace the cells you’ve lost. Once they have been replaced, the flip switches off and the cells stop reproducing. Cell reproduction is a very good thing. But what if the flip didn’t switch off and the cells just kept on reproducing over and over without ever stopping? Pretty scary, huh? That’s what cancer is. You’ve probably heard of a tumor. That lump forms because a bunch of cells won’t stop growing. So what is cancer of the skin? Abnormal growth of skin cells. What is cancer of the brain? Unusual development of brain cells. What is cancer of the lungs? Uncontrolled lung tissue growth.
The good news is that some cancers are environmental, in that they are caused by external factors and therefore preventable. For example, you can wear sunblock and decrease UV ray exposure, and thus your chances of developing skin cancer. Or you can stay away from cigarettes and likely avoid lung cancer for the rest of your life. The bad news is that other kinds of cancer are hereditary and you might be predisposed to developing them. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s untreatable. By adopting healthy habits such as exercising, eating right and taking good care of your body in general, you can likely avoid cancer and increase your life span. Many people suffer from cancer of the mind—an endless reproduction of thought cells telling you that it’s hopeless or pointless, but this self-defeating attitude is a disease that needs to be addressed just as much as cancers of the body. You only get to live life once, so make the most of it by making the most of the body and mind you’ve got.