What is cancer and how to detect it early

The cell cycle is the process by which a cell grows and divides

The cell cycle is the process by which a cell grows and divides. The cell cycle is made up of interphase (G1, S, and G2 phases), followed by mitosis and finally cytokinesis.

Mitosis is the phase in which cells divide to produce two identical daughter cells. During mitosis, chromosomes line up in pairs within the nucleus before they are separated—one copy goes into each daughter cell during anaphase—and then replicated at the start of prophase I.

Cells divide to produce new cells

When a cell divides to produce new cells, it’s called cell division.

Cell division happens in the body all the time. It can be triggered by an injury or infection, or just because it’s part of the normal process of aging. In fact, every day your body replaces about 100 billion cells with old ones that die out.

The lifespan of most normal cells is about 50 divisions before they die and are replaced by new ones — so when we talk about cancerous cells dividing too quickly or too often, it means that their division rate is abnormal compared to healthy cells’ rate (and they may never stop dividing altogether).

Tumor suppressor genes control the rate at which cells grow and divide

Tumor suppressor genes control the rate at which cells grow and divide. Normal, healthy cells contain thousands of these genes. When they’re functioning normally, they keep cell division under control so that only when the body needs more cells will those changes occur.

But in cancerous tumors, tumor suppressor genes are often inactivated or mutated. That allows cancer cells to grow out of control and form tumors.

The most common mutation is seen in p53 (a type of protein), which usually prevents damaged DNA from passing on to new cells by stopping cell division if there’s anything wrong with your DNA sequence—that’s called genomic instability—but if this gene mutates it won’t do its job anymore and can lead to cancer developing.

Proto-oncogenes signal cells to grow and divide

There are certain genes that signal cells to grow and divide. These are called proto-oncogenes, and they’re responsible for normal cell growth and division. A mutation in a proto-oncogene may cause a cell to grow and divide uncontrollably, leading to cancerous tumors. Proto-oncogenes are often found in the same location as oncogenes, which code for proteins that control cell growth or suppress it (depending on how they’re expressed).

The way these two types of genes look is similar: they have long tails with many bases sticking out at right angles from the main sequence of DNA. This shape is also seen in histones—the spools around which DNA wraps up before being copied into RNA during cell replication—and other regulatory proteins involved with gene expression pathways.

Mutations in proto-oncogenes can turn them into oncogenes

Proteins called “proto-oncogenes” are normal genes that control cell growth and division. They can become oncogenes if they acquire mutations. Mutations in proto-oncogenes cause them to produce proteins that cause the cells to divide uncontrollably, which results in cancer cells developing.

Oncogenes signal cells to grow and divide abnormally

Oncogenes are genes that are responsible for normal cell growth and division. Oncogenes can be mutated by radiation, chemicals, or viruses, or they can be inherited from a parent. When an oncogene is mutated, it can cause cells to divide uncontrollably and form tumors.

Oncogenes cause cancer by turning off normal growth controls or by turning on mechanisms that stimulate cell growth

There are two types of genes that play a role in cancer: oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. Tumor suppressor genes are important for keeping cell division under control, and when they’re damaged or inactivated, cancer can develop.

On the other hand, oncogenes lead to uncontrolled cell division by promoting the growth of new cells that do not function properly or die too quickly. When an oncogene becomes activated or mutated (damaged), it can turn off tumor suppressor genes and cause them to stop working properly.

A damaged DNA molecule causes genetic changes that lead to cancer formation. These alterations can occur either through mutation or epigenetic modification (changes in gene expression without mutations). Some examples of such defects include:

  • A change in a single letter of your DNA code may make a protein coded by the altered gene work differently than its counterpart without this change — thus causing abnormal cell growth;
  • Multiple copies of certain genes could be produced if there is more than one copy per genome (the total number of chromosomes);
  • A missing piece from a chromosome may result when a part breaks off during replication; this piece could contain information about how many copies should be made before reaching its destination;

Cancer is caused by changes in our genes that cause cells to grow and divide in abnormal ways

Cancer is caused by changes in our genes that cause cells to grow and divide in abnormal ways.

Normal genes are called proto-oncogenes, and cancer genes are called oncogenes. Oncogenes can cause cancer by turning off normal growth controls or by turning on mechanisms that stimulate cell growth.

Doctors and researchers are always looking for earlier ways to find cancer

You’ve probably heard about the importance of early detection for many types of cancer. Doctors and researchers are always looking for earlier ways to find cancer, so it can be treated before it spreads or causes any symptoms.

There are many screening tests that use imaging technologies such as X-rays and ultrasounds. Screening tests look for signs that something is going on in your body (or your relatives’ bodies). Some people might have a higher risk of developing some cancers than others and need to be tested more often than others. 

For example, women over age 50 should get mammograms every year because they have a higher risk of breast cancer compared with men their age; men over 65 should talk with their doctors about whether they need regular prostate exams if they’re African American or have a family history of prostate cancer; people who have been diagnosed with colorectal polyps should talk with their doctors about how often they should get colonoscopies (a special type of endoscopy) again after having one done two years ago. 

People living near nuclear power plants may want to consider getting an annual exam at one of several federally-funded “Radiation Dose Registry” clinics throughout the country where you can find out what level of radiation exposure has been detected in these areas based on measurements taken from ground level using special devices called dosimeters worn by residents who live within 10 miles from nuclear plants during certain periods since 1986 when newer gauges were introduced into use along coastal regions where there’s significant potential for contamination due to storms, hurricanes etcetera.

Mammograms and Pap smears help many women detect breast cancer, cervical cancer, and other types of cancer early

Mammograms and pap smears are important tools for detecting breast cancer, cervical cancer, and other types of cancer early. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast tissue that can detect tumors that are too small to be felt by hand. During a pap smear, cells from the cervix (the opening to your uterus) are collected on a slide and examined under a microscope for signs of abnormal cells called dysplasia.

In general, cancer that’s detected earlier is easier to treat

In general, cancer that’s detected early is easier to treat. If cancer hasn’t spread and you have an accurate diagnosis, your treatment options will be better. Even if it has spread, earlier detection may help you avoid surgery or other procedures.

Early detection can improve your chances of survival in several ways:

  • It might be that the tumor is confined to one area of the body and can be removed surgically without putting you at risk for other types of treatment like radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with a type of cancer that has a high remission rate (around 95 percent) but not necessarily long-term survival (about five years), early detection gives you an advantage in recovery because it gives your immune system more time to fight off any remaining cancer cells before they become resistant to treatment. This gives doctors more time to treat any metastases—that is, growths outside the primary site where the original tumor was found—since these will most likely occur within three years after diagnosis (the average length of survival after diagnosis with metastatic disease).

There is no single test that can detect all cancers early

An annual physical exam is the best way to detect cancer early, but there’s more you can do. If you have any new symptoms or changes in your body, tell your doctor about them. Some common warning signs include a lump, discoloration, or swelling in the breast; bloody urine or stool; unexplained weight loss; fatigue or weakness; and indigestion that doesn’t go away after over-the-counter medication.

Some symptoms are important to tell your doctor about right away

Some symptoms are important to tell your doctor about right away. These include:

  • Bloody or tarry stools (poop)
  • Bowel movements that look like tar, coffee grounds, or black and tarry stool
  • Red or black urine

These symptoms can be caused by many things, but you should call your doctor if you have them. Your doctor will talk with you about what may be causing the problem and how to treat it.

No matter how old you are, if you notice a new symptom or change in your body, tell your doctor about it

If you notice a new symptom or change in your body, tell your doctor about it. No matter how old you are, if you have any of the following symptoms and do not know what causes them or if they do not go away, tell your doctor:

  • A lump or thickening in the breast that is new
  • A sore that doesn’t heal after two weeks
  • Changes to bowel or bladder habits that last more than two weeks
  • Change in the size, shape, or color of a mole on your skin

The sooner you tell your doctor about a new or unusual symptom, the sooner you can get medical advice

You may have been given some clues about your cancer risk. But you can never be sure what it is until you get tested. Knowing your own risk is important, but knowing the signs and symptoms of cancer can help you catch it earlier—when treatment works best.

The sooner you tell your doctor about a new or unusual symptom, the sooner he or she can give advice and treatment—both for cancer and for other health problems. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults see their doctor at least twice a year: once to have their physical exam (including a pelvic exam) and again during regular checkups to discuss changes in health status since their last visit.

Cancer detection techniques

A cancer diagnosis often begins with a physical examination, including a breast exam and/or mammogram. Sometimes, further tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis of cancer or rule out other conditions that could explain the symptoms.

It’s important to remember that not every person diagnosed with cancer requires an invasive procedure like surgery or radiation treatment, so it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider about what testing you might need (and how soon) after being diagnosed with cancer.

There are several different types of diagnostic tests:

Diagnosing cancer

Confirming the presence of cancer is the first step in diagnosing cancer. There are several ways to do this, each of which can be performed on its own or in combination:

  • Biopsy – A biopsy is when a sample of tissue is removed from your body for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. It’s usually done after an imaging test like a CT scan or MRI has suggested you have cancer, but it can also be performed alone if there are abnormal cells that your doctor wants to look at more closely.
  • Imaging tests – These tests use X-ray machines, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, computed tomography (CT) scans, and other forms of technology to help doctors see how deep into the body something has gone without having to cut into people’s bodies first—and sometimes without even touching them at all! An example would be endoscopy (wherein one endoscope goes down your throat while another goes up through either nostril).

Familial cancer syndrome

Familial cancer syndrome is an inherited condition that increases the risk of developing cancer. It’s caused by a mutation in a gene that normally works to suppress tumors (tumor suppressor genes). This means that the body is unable to repair normal cell damage, leading to mutations in other genes that can cause tumors.

Familial cancer syndromes can be passed down through families through the generations. One example is Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS), where people are more likely than others to develop certain types of cancer at an early age.

Screening tests for cancer

Finding cancer early can help save your life. The earlier you find it, the better your chances are of surviving it. Screening tests can help find cancer in its earliest stages when treatment is most likely to work best.

There are many types of screening tests for cancer, including mammograms and colonoscopies for breast and colorectal cancers; pap tests for cervical cancer; prostate exams for prostate cancer; sigmoidoscopy or double-contrast barium enema (DCBE) for bowel problems such as rectal bleeding; Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) test to look at the lining of the lower part of the colon has been shown in recent studies to be just as effective as traditional FSIGs in detecting precancerous growths called adenomas—as many as 95 percent of these abnormalities were detected.

Cancer screening tests can help you detect cancer in the early stages when it is the most treatable.

Cancer screening tests can help you detect cancer in the early stages when it is the most treatable.

The three main types of screening tests are physical exams and self-exams, imaging scans such as mammograms and ultrasounds, and laboratory tests that measure proteins or genes in your blood. Screening tests are not perfect: they may find something that looks like cancer but isn’t actually cancer (a false positive) or miss a small amount of cancer (a false negative).

If you have been diagnosed with prostate or breast cancer and are considering treatment options, talk to your doctor about which treatments will best fit your needs.

If you or someone you know has a new or unusual symptom, it’s important to speak with your doctor. Many people don’t think they’re at risk of cancer until it’s too late—but early detection can mean the difference between life and death.

Early detection saves lives because it:

  • Allows for more effective treatment options
  • Reduces the cost of treatment
  • Saves time

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