Cancer is a type of disease caused by abnormal genetic changes resulting in uncontrolled cell growth. It can also be known as tumor, neoplasm, or malignant hyperplasia. A particular genetic change in a DNA gene is known as a mutation. A mutation in a DNA gene can result in a complete loss of a tumor or a functional change in that function. A cancer tumor can spread to other organs and can lead to life-threatening complications.
Cancer is an inherited condition. There is no way to stop or even recognize most genetic changes, except perhaps those resulting from radiation therapy for cancer treatment, which can sometimes be detected by tumor markers such as adenomatous poly positions and molecular probes used in biopsy. Mutation testing can be used in many cases of familial cancers, where a family history of cancer is available for examination. This test is particularly useful in ascertaining whether or not a tumor is benign or malignant.
Cancer is divided into many types, depending on the type of mutation it contains. Benign mutations are usually normal; they result from genetic alterations that do not affect the protein or DNA material of the cell but are essential for its functioning. They can be mutations that change the regulation of cell division, altering how cells grow and divide, or they can be regulatory mutations, which regulate the activity of particular genes. Common examples of regulatory mutations include those that cause cystitis or hematuria, rearrangement of chromosomes, and alterations of the regulation of chromatin.
Oncogenic mutations are normal cells that grow abnormally, out of control. Examples of oncogenic mutations are those that cause increased size of cancer cells, increased proliferation of cancer cells, the absence of a tumor-suppressing tumor gene or DNA fragment, or the resistance to conventional drugs. Heteroplastic mutations are those that create cancer cells without changing the DNA or protein content of the cell. Examples of oncogenic heteroplastic mutations are those that cause breast cancer, melanoma, leukemia, and pancreatic cancer.
Cancer is a broad term used to describe all kinds of tumor growth. The most common tumors are small and malignant in nature. Larger tumors may begin in normal cells without malignant potential but may later erupt into cancer. Regardless of their size, most tumors are classified as malignant, when cancerous cells spread through the body. Tumors can occur in any part of the body, although most cancers tend to appear in the lung, liver, heart, and bones.
Cancer is no doubt a very frightening disease and there are many different ways to deal with it. If you suspect that you have some type of cancer, be sure to speak with your doctor. Regular checkups with your doctor can help detect the earliest symptoms of cancer, so that treatment can be begun and your odds of survival can be increased greatly. There are also a number of different treatments available to treat cancer, including: