What is cancer?

Cancer is when cells in the body change and grow out of control. Your body is made up of tiny building blocks called cells. Normal cells grow when your body needs them, and die when your body does not need them any longer. Cancer is made up of abnormal cells that grow even though your body doesn’t need them. In most types of cancer, the abnormal cells grow to form a lump or mass called a tumor.

What causes cancer?

Two types of factors contribute to the cause of cancer. One is a tendency or predisposition to develop cancer. The other is exposure to the triggers that start it off. Examples are cigarettes, environmental toxins, sun exposure, or liver damage.

Do we get cancer from what we eat?

Yes and no! The high-fat, low-fiber diet common in developed countries may play a role in about a third of all cancers, but doctors don’t know this for certain yet. There are no toxins or chemicals in modern foods that are proved to cause cancer. In fact, the opposite is true. For example, the fact that cancer of the stomach is becoming less common may be because of the way foods are preserved.

How does cancer start?

Your body is made up of many different types of cells. Under normal conditions, cells grow, divide, become old, and die. Then, in most cases, they’re replaced by new cells. But sometimes cells mutate grow out of control, and form a mass, or tumor, instead of dying.

Is cancer genetic?

Cancer is, in fact, a genetic disease. This is because cancer is caused by mutations or changes to genes that control the way our cells function, causing them to behave irregularly. These mutations can be inherited, as they are in about 5-10 percent of all cancer cases, but it’s much more likely that these gene changes occur during a person’s lifetime due to other factors besides genetics.

How do cancer drugs work?

Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. But chemotherapy drugs can also harm healthy cells, leading to treatment side effects.

Newer drugs, called targeted drugs, block genes or proteins found in the cancer cells. Targeted therapy usually causes less harm to healthy cells, but it still has side effects.

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