Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. These contrast with benign tumors, which do not spread. Possible signs and symptoms include a lump, abnormal bleeding, prolonged cough, unexplained weight loss, and a change in bowel movements. While these symptoms may indicate cancer, they may have other causes. Over 100 types of cancers affect humans.
Tobacco use is the cause of about 22% of cancer deaths. Another 10% is due to obesity, a poor diet, lack of physical activity, and excessive drinking of alcohol. Other factors include certain infections, exposure to ionizing radiation and environmental pollutants. In the developing world, 15% of cancers are due to infections such as Helicobacter pylori, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human papillomavirus infection, Epstein–Barr virus, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These factors act, at least partly, by changing the genes of a cell. Typically, many genetic changes are required before cancer develops. Approximately 5–10% of cancers are due to inherited genetic defects from a person’s parents. Cancer can be detected by certain signs and symptoms or screening tests. It is then typically further investigated by medical imaging and confirmed by biopsy.
Many cancers can be prevented by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, not drinking too much alcohol, eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and avoiding too much processed and red meat. Early detection through screening is useful for cervical and colorectal cancer. The benefits of screening in breast cancer are controversial. Cancer is often treated with some combination of radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Pain and symptom management are an important part of care. Palliative care is particularly important in people with advanced disease. The chance of survival depends on the type of cancer and extent of disease at the start of treatment.
In children under 15 at diagnosis, the five-year survival rate in the developed world is on average 80%. For cancer in the United States, the average five-year survival rate is 66%. In children under 15 at diagnosis, the most common types of cancer are acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (32%), brain tumors (26%), and lymphoma (14%). In adults, the most common types of cancer are breast cancer (25%), lung cancer (13%), and colorectal cancer (10%). In 2020, about 9.5 million people died from cancer.
The latest advances in cancer treatment include:
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. This type of treatment has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of cancers, including melanoma, lung cancer, and bladder cancer.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs that target specific molecules involved in cancer growth. This type of treatment has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of cancers, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer.
- Gene therapy: Gene therapy is a type of treatment that uses genes to treat cancer. This type of treatment is still in the early stages of development, but it has shown promise in treating some types of cancer.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. This type of treatment is often used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. This type of treatment is often used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy.
These are just a few of the latest advances in cancer treatment. As research continues, new and more effective treatments are being developed all the time.
In addition to these new treatments, there are also a number of new approaches to cancer care that are being developed. These include:
- Personalized medicine: Personalized medicine is a type of care that is tailored to the individual patient. This type of care takes into account the patient’s genetic makeup, tumor type, and other factors to determine the best treatment plan.
- Precision medicine: Precision medicine is a type of care that uses information about the patient’s genes, environment, and lifestyle to predict their risk of developing cancer and to identify the best treatment options.
- Preventive medicine: Preventive medicine is a type of care that aims to prevent cancer from developing in the first place. This type of care includes things like smoking cessation, vaccination, and screening for early detection.
The latest advances in cancer treatment and care are providing hope for people with cancer. With continued research, even more effective treatments are likely to be developed in the future.