Cancer is more prevalent in the world today than we would like to acknowledge. In the U.S., half of all males and a third of all females will develop some sort of cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately with breakthroughs in research and technology, cancer is now far from a death sentence.
Cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the body grow out of control. Healthy cells grow and reproduce to help the body stay healthy. When the healthy cells reproduce, the exact DNA from one cell is recreated in the next cell. Whenever an abnormal cell reproduces, the cell’s damaged DNA is also reproduced. These damaged cells build up and cause tumors, which can be one of the first signs of cancer. While not every tumor is cancerous, it is important to inform your doctor immediately if one is found.
A number of different factors can lead to cancer including tobacco use, sun and UV exposure, poor diet and exercise, different carcinogens or even genetics. According to Dr. Courtright of Texas Oncology-Medical City Dallas, after prognosis, the second question a patient diagnosed with cancer asks “is usually about whether or not their disease is inherited. Patients ask if the disease can be passed on to their children and if other family members are at risk or need to be tested.”
If you notice something out of the ordinary, like a tumor or extreme fatigue and reoccurring fever, contact your doctor immediately. Even if a tumor is benign, it is worth a trip to the doctor because it is important to catch cancer as early as possible, as it is easier to treat and beat cancer in its early stages. You can be checked for cancer with X-rays, scans and genetic testing. Carinsa Gaston, BSRT (T), oncology program manager at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, points out, “The last several years have brought hope to many in the fight against cancer. There are decreasing death rates of some cancers due to improved treatments and increased compliance with screenings.”
Diagnosis and Treatment
Once diagnosed with cancer, patients have many options for treatment, depending on the severity of the prognosis. These treatments can range from radiation, chemotherapy and even personalized treatments with special cancer-fighting drug therapy. Texas Oncology-Medical City Dallas has helped play “a role in the development of 43 FDA-approved cancer-fighting drugs,” according to Dr. Courtright.
The first fight against cancer comes before diagnosis by making sure to stay healthy through a good diet and exercise. Smoking is a major contributor to developing types of cancer not only limited to lung cancer. If diagnosed, taking care of your health is even more important so make sure to eat healthy, exercise and, if you do smoke, quit. Technology and research are helping more people beat cancer. Even with so many people being diagnosed, more people than ever are being treated and beating the disease.
“For the first time we have seen a decline in overall death for all cancers,” James K.V. Willson, M.D., Director, Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center, Associate Dean Oncology Programs, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, stated. “The 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers is now 67 percent.” Dr. Willson attributes the rising success to the ability to not only catch the cancer early and improvements in treatment, but to lifestyle changes adding, “Important trends include a decline in lung cancer mortality for women because they are now starting to stop smoking.”
Our increased desire to stay healthy and find better ways to target and eliminate cancer are helping more and more of our loved ones beat cancer and become a survivor rather than a victim of this terrible disease.
-By Sam Nicholson