Today is February 4, World Cancer Day. But what is cancer? It is a term that groups together several diseases that originate when certain cells in our body begin to reproduce in an uncontrolled manner that can accumulate and eventually form tumors in most cases. Leukemia is an example of this disease that does not always produce tumors.  These can be benign or malignant. Both can grow, but their difference lies mainly in the fact that malignant tumors can spread to other tissues, giving rise to the phenomenon known as metastasis. This occurs when cancer cells are carried by the lymphatic or blood systems to other parts of the body, where they continue to reproduce and form new tumors.

We know what it is. What causes it? There are three factors related to the development of this disease: usual, environmental and genetic.

  • Habitual factors. These are related to the lifestyle of each person. The consumption of certain substances such as tobacco has been shown to increase the chances of developing cancer. 
  • Environmental factors. These include the carcinogenic agents to which people are exposed in their environment. Breathing air contaminated with gases emitted by cars, many hours of intense sunlight or prolonged exposure to certain types of radiation will make it easier for us to end up suffering from cancer.
  • Genetic factors. Our genes are determining factors when it comes to suffering from or resisting a wide variety of diseases. If there is a history of cancer in our family, the probability that our cells will end up reproducing in an uncontrolled manner is higher. 

Although there are risk factors, there is no way to avoid cancer, only to reduce the probability of suffering from it. The question that arises now is: is there a cure?

The reality is that there are treatments, but there is no infallible remedy. The effectiveness of the treatment and a patient’s chances of survival depend on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease:

  • In situ stage. It begins when the cells start to multiply in an uncontrolled manner. There is no way to diagnose cancer at this stage and it may take 30 years before symptoms appear.
  • Induction stage. At this stage, small lesions can be seen in the body as a result of the reproduction of the abnormal cells. At this stage the cancer is already detectable.
  • Local invasion phase. In this phase the cells begin to invade other tissues or locations adjacent to where they originated. 
  • Metastatic phase. This occurs when the cancer cells, aided by the circulatory and lymphatic system, spread throughout the body and continue their expansion in the organism, forming new tumors in previously healthy locations.
  • Terminal phase. This is the last stage of the disease if it is fully developed. It is considered that the patient cannot recover or reverse the progress of the disease. This phase ends irremediably with the death of the individual, who is subjected to palliative care to prevent physical suffering.

Therefore, it is important to detect cancer in the earliest stages in order to increase the patient’s chances of survival.

On the other hand, it is important to point out that it is very difficult to determine that a patient has been cured of cancer; it is usual to say that the cancer is in a “remission” stage. The remission stage is when the signs of the cancer begin to diminish and even disappear. The problem is that the cancer can come back and show up again. It is true that the longer it goes without doing so, the less likely it is to return, but there is no certainty. Cancer patients, even in stages of complete remission (no signs or symptoms of the disease), have to have regular check-ups to make sure it does not come back.

We already know what it is, what the causes are and that it is treatable. However, what is its incidence? Absolutely, cancer affects everyone. We have to qualify that it can involve us directly or indirectly. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, around 20 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year. It is estimated that this number continues to increase annually, which makes early detection more relevant and necessary.

Today is February 4, World Cancer Day. But what is cancer? It is a disease that is diagnosed annually in approximately 20 million people, that is more dangerous the later it is detected and that can manifest itself in any type of cell. It is a problem that affects public health and from which, unfortunately, we cannot escape today. Today is the day to shed light on this problem, to make the population aware of the importance of knowing and preventing this disease. Early detection and early action can mean the difference between life and death.