There is probably no disease that can frighten you the way cancer does. But there is no point in staying in fear when we must be brave. Cancer may be a serious health issue, but it’s not invincible.

Yes, the tunnel may be dark, but there’s still light at the end of this tunnel. What we mean to say is, recoveries are also increasing by the day. So, why should we not remember that? How about if we live with a ray of sunshine as we continue to know more about cancer. 

So, let this World Cancer Day be the day you become more aware of cancer and celebrate the fighter spirit in the survivors and those suffering from it. 

Cancer is scary, but each and everyone of us can defeat it like the smartest and strongest warriors if we prioritise regular screenings.  Let’s get started, shall we? Here are 5 things to know about cancer

Cancer is caused when cells grow abnormally 

Every inch of your being is made of cells – every organ, every tissue is made of cells. There are approximately 37.2 trillion cells in the body. A cell is supposed to grow and divide, when necessary. In adults, it’s necessary during the repair process – the cells die, and new cells come into being – that is the cycle and that’s what normal cells usually do. Among these 32.7 trillion cells, there may exist some cancerous cells that don’t come into being until late. 

So, does that mean we all have cancerous cells? 

No, none of us are born with cancerous cells. Instead, it is the normal cells that may become cancerous. This happens, when they don’t die (they should, that is the normal process, much like life). Instead, they continue to grow and divide abnormally. 

So, cancer cells can’t be passed down? 

Yes, it is true that if you have cancer in your family, there is a probability of you developing the same. This doesn’t mean you are born with cancerous cells that grow abnormally later in life. This simply means that there may be a possibility of genetic mutations that turn a healthy and normal cell into a cancerous one. In a nutshell, cancerous cells are not inherited, but a genetic change that increases the probability of cancerous cells can be passed down. 

Trivia: Only 5-10% of cancers are hereditary 

So, does this mean if I don’t have cancer in my family, I am safe? 

Sorry, but no. Apart from genetics, environmental factors can also cause mutations and damage cells. These factors include smoking, exposure to radiation, and harmful UVA and UVB rays. In addition, some chemicals in the environment such as benzene, asbestos, vinyl chloride, radon, arsenic, and trichloroethylene can also cause mutations, and ultimately cancer. 

All tumours are not cancerous 

Cancer and tumours are considered to be the same, but they are different. Hence, not all tumours are cancerous. A tumour is defined as an abnormal lump or growth of cells. When the cells present in the tumours are normal, the tumour is ‘benign’. Hence, they do not recur when they are surgically removed. If the cells in the lump are abnormal, they are cancerous and called ‘malignant’. 

There exists more than 200 types of cancers 

As organs and tissues are made of cells, there exist more than 200 types of cancers. They are defined and categorised based on where they start. 

Some of the most common types of cancer are breast cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancer. Among these, lung cancer is the deadliest. On the contrary, thyroid cancer and cervical cancer have the highest recovery rate. 

Women are more likely to survive cancer

Cancer affects both men and women. As per the worldwide stats, cancer affects more men than women. But in India, it is the women who are more likely to develop and survive cancer. It’s not in genetics, but it has more to do with lifestyle factors and screening obligations. Women are more exposed to health checkups on account of pregnancy and menstruation, helping in early detection and diagnosis. 

Breast cancer is more common in the left breast than right 

As per studies, the left breast is more likely to have cancer than the right one. Additionally, the left side of the body is also 10% more vulnerable to melanoma (a skin cancer type). There is no conclusive reason for this. More research is required to establish why this happens. 

Closing thoughts 

As we commemorate World Cancer Day and strive to raise awareness about this pervasive disease, it is essential to delve into the lesser-known facets of cancer. Knowledge is a powerful tool in the fight against cancer, and as we continue to unravel the complexities surrounding this condition, let us stand united in our commitment to raising awareness, fostering compassion, and ultimately working towards a world where cancer is not only better understood but also conquered.

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