The treatment of cancer

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According to the statistics presented by the World Health Organization (WHO), with around 7.4 million deaths (around 13% of the total death) in 2004, cancer is the leading cause of death throughout the world (WHO, 2009). These levels are expected to rise further in future, ‘with an estimated 12 million death in 2030’ (WHO, 2009). There are more than 100 different types of cancer (Crosta, n.d.), among them the Lung cancer, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer and the breast cancer are the most common types.

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Tobacco is the most important risk factor for cancer, with nearly 1.3 million deaths per year just due to lung cancer alone (WHO, 2009).

Cancer

At the primary level, human body consists of large number building blocks, called the cells. Under normal circumstances, new cells are formed by the body depending on the body requirement, in order to replace the dead cells. But sometimes, under abnormal conditions, there is an exponential (uncontrolled) increase in the formation and growth of new cells. The accumulation of these extra cells forms mass or lumps of tissues, called the tumor (National Cancer Institute, 2010). Most of the cancers, in general form tumors, but there are certain exceptions, like leukemia, that do not form tumors (in leukemia or blood cancer, the cancer cells hinder the normal blood functions due to abnormal cell disintegration in the blood stream (Crosta, n.d.)). The tumors can be of two types; benign tumor and malignant tumor. The benign tumors do not propagate to other sections of the body and have restrained growth (Crosta, n.d.), whereas the malignant tumor cells have the ability to invade into the surrounding tissues. Also the malignant tumor cells can escape from their initial location and spread to other sections of the body through blood or lymph. Only the malignant tumors are cancerous in nature. Therefore, the cancer has three distinctive properties that distinguish malignant tumors from benign tumors:

  • Uncontrolled growth
  • Invasive nature
  • Metastasis (ability to spread to other sections of the body)
  • These disorders in cells are the result of the interaction between the genetic factors and external agents (which are called carcinogens) (WHO, 2009). The carcinogens can be categorized as (WHO, 2009):

  • Biological carcinogens, like certain bacteria, viruses or parasites.
  • Physical carcinogens, which includes the high energy radiations (ionizing radiations).
  • Chemical carcinogens, these include substances like tobacco smoke, arsenic (water contaminant), aflatoxin (food contaminant), asbestos etc.

Another factor essential in the development of cancer is the age. According to the studies conducted by the Cancer Research UK, the risk increase predominantly with increasing age, with nearly 74% of the cases of cancer diagnosed in people aged 60 and above (Cancer Research UK,

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