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How Much Do You Know About Cancer?

How Much Do You Know About Cancer?

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Better known as the silent assassin, cancer powerfully overwhelm the health of people without any warning. According to WHO (World Health Organization), it is predicted that by 2032, there will be 22 million new cancer cases globally each year. The most common cancers diagnosed in 2012 were those of the lung, breast and colon.


Causes of Cancer


The word cancer is Latin for crab. This is probably because the finger-like spreading projections from a cancer resemble the shape of a crab. Cancer cells form when normal cells mutate, and cancer occurs when mutated cells multiply and grow uncontrollably to destroy normal biological functions all over the body.


Many factors can lead to cancer. These include :


  • viruses – for example, 80% of primary liver cancers is caused by Hepatitis B virus
  • pollution
  • radiation
  • unhealthy diet – eating large amounts of animal-based protein and fat
  • obesity
  • lack of exercise
  • poor living habit/choices – staying up late, smoking, binge drinking (of alcohol)
  • certain medications – drugs that suppress the immune system such as corticosteriods and hormone therapy related

Common Cancer Classification


Cancers may be classified by their primary site of origin: the location in the body where the cancer first developed or by the type of tissue in which they originate. Using the primary site of origin, cancers maybe of a specific type, like lung cancer and brain cancer.


Based on tissue types, cancer may be classified into six major categories: carcinoma, sarcome, myeloma, leukemia, lymphoma and mixed types:

  • Carcinoma, which is malignacy of epithelial tissue, accounts for 80% to 90% of all cancer cases because epithelial tissue is widespread throughout the body, as it present in everything from skin to the covering and lining of organs and internal passageways like the gastrointestinal tract
  • Sarcoma refers to cancer that originates in connective and supportive tissues like bones, cartilage, tendons, muscle and fat
  • Myeloma is cancer that originates in the plasma cells of bone marrow
  • Leukemia otherwise known as “blood cancer” or “liquid cancer” are cancers of the bone marrow i.e. the site of blood cell production
  • Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The two types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Mixed types have two or more components of the cancer (for example carcinosarcoma)

Cancer Does Not Happen Suddenly


Cancer is often diagnosed a long time after its intial formation. Even the most cutting-edge, sophisticated medical instruments can only detect tumors with 1mm diameter and above, which is basically equivalent to the size of a full stop or period that you see on computer monitor, tablet or your mobile phone screen. However, a tumour is not just a singular cancer cell but rather, it is made up of at least 1 million cancer cells. When it grows to 1cm, there wll be at least 1 billion cancer cells in that tumour! Left unchecked, the tumour can then grow to 10cm, which by this time, the cancer afflicted person will almost certainly be on the verge of death.


Cancer cells are terrifying because they divide out of control. For example, one cancer cell splits into two, two becomes four cells, four cells become eight cells, and so on. By the time a tumour is detected, cancer cells are already growing at a rate of few million times, or even several hundred million times. Imagine one billion becoming two billion, two billion becoming four billion and so forth.


About two thirds of the time, cancer stays hidden, and its progress is stealthy. Take breast cancer, for instance – it may take six to eight years for breast cancer to grow from one cell to the size of 1cm. Another example is collorectal cancer. It takes about 10 to 20 years for newly formed colorectal growths to become cancerous. this time period is extremely critical, for it can influence whether cancer cells will continue to divide or if they can be stopped or even destroyed.


The health of the immune system plays an important part in the speed of cancer cell growth where obviously a stronger immune system could slow down cancer cell growth and in some cases, even destroy existing cancer cells.


Besides this, early detection, treatment and efforts to boost immunity can prolong life by effectively reducing the survival rate of cancer cells, minimizing cancer incidence and helping the body fight the disease.

Madeline Kwan

Madeline graduated with honours in Bachelor of Science Dietetics with Nutrition and is now pursuing the Master Of Science (Health Sciences) course. Currently working as clinical dietitian in a private health institution in Singapore, Madeline shares her passion for nutrition & diet education, repoductive health and general fitness tips by in her articles for YesMyWellness.com. She is also involved in a number of community projects, which includes travelling to rural areas in South East Asia conducting talks, workshops, health checks.

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