Understanding cancer: A guide

Understanding cancer: A guide

At Harbour Cancer & Wellness, our mission is toprovide the best possible cancer treatment in a personalised, empathetic way, combined with prescribed exercise therapy and other complementary care to support maximal clinical outcomes, rehabilitation and wellness. Part of our proven approach includes empowering patients and their families with knowledge about cancer, its types, treatments, and the journey towards better health.  

What is cancer? 

Cancer is a disease where cells in the body grow out of control. This can happen when cells are damaged and no longer die as they should. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body, which is called metastasis. 

There are many different types of cancer, each with its own unique characteristics. Some common types of cancer include breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. 

What causes cancer? 

The exact causes of cancer are not fully understood, but there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing cancer. These include: 

  • Age: The risk of developing cancer increases with age. 

  • Family history: If you have a family history of cancer, you are more likely to develop cancer yourself. 

  • Obesity: Obesity is a major risk factor for several types of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancer. 

  • Smoking: Smoking is the leading cause of preventable cancer deaths. 

  • Physical inactivity: Physical inactivity is a risk factor for several types of cancer, including colon cancer and endometrial cancer. 

  • Exposure to radiation: Exposure to radiation, such as from X-rays or nuclear fallout, can increase the risk of developing cancer. 

  • Unhealthy diet: Eating a diet that is high in processed foods, red meat, and unhealthy fats can increase the risk of developing cancer. 

  • Some viruses: Some viruses, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus, can increase the risk of developing cancer. 

How is cancer diagnosed? 

Cancer is often diagnosed through a combination of tests, including: 

  • Physical exam: A doctor will examine your body for any signs of cancer. 

  • Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to look for cancer cells or cancer markers, which are substances that are released by cancer cells. 

  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans, can be used to look for tumors or other signs of cancer. 

  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed from the body and examined under a microscope. 

How is cancer treated? 

The treatment for cancer depends on the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer, and the patient's overall health. Common treatments for cancer include: 

  • Surgery: Surgery is used to remove the cancer tumor. 

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. 

  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. 

  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs that target specific molecules on cancer cells. 

  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy uses the body's own immune system to fight cancer. 

The future of cancer treatment 

Cancer research is constantly evolving, and there are many new and promising treatments being developed. Some of the most promising areas of cancer research include: 

  • Precision medicine: Precision medicine uses information about a patient's genes and tumor to develop personalised treatments. 

  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a rapidly developing field that is showing great promise in the treatment of cancer. At Harbour Cancer & Wellness we are proud to be contributing to this progress by running clinical trials. Anyone wishing to know more about their suitability for trials should speak to their doctor.    

  • Cancer vaccines: Cancer vaccines are being developed that could help prevent or treat cancer. 

  • Gene therapy: Gene therapy is a technique that could be used to repair or replace genes that are mutated or damaged. 

Cancer is a complex disease, but there are many effective treatments available. With early detection and treatment, many people with cancer can go on to live long and healthy lives. 


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