Know Cancer to Fight It

The Facts

Normal cells have a life cycle in which they grow and replace themselves in a controlled manner. When cells start to grow abnormally and uncontrollably, cancer develops.

Unlike normal cells, cancer cells do not die and replace themselves. They continue to grow and multiply as abnormal cells, quickly forming a mass of tissue called a tumour. Cancer cells may travel to various parts of the body where they may replace normal cells and tissues.

When part of a tumour breaks away from its primary location and lodges in another area or organ, the process is called metastasis. The tumour is said to have metastasised.

The Treatments

Depending on your general health, and the type and stage of cancer, your preferred treatment may include surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, used on its own or in combination.


Surgery is the most established form of cancer treatment and offers the most promising solution for many types of cancer, especially those that are localised or confined to one area of the body.

Surgery plays a major role in diagnosis and in determining the clinical stage of cancer. For many patients, it offers the best option for the successful removal of a tumour.


In radiotherapy, high energy ionising rays, usually X-rays are used to kill cancer cells. The radiation doses in radiotherapy are also higher than those for normal X-ray procedures. Cancer cells are more sensitive to radiation than normal cells, so targeting cancer cells with radiation damages them and causes the tumour to shrink.

Radiotherapy is an effective treatment for many types of cancer. Optimum delivery of this treatment involves simulation and treatment planning where the area to be treated is carefully defined and the radiation dose is meticulously verified. Doses may be delivered through either external or internal radiation.

External radiation is commonly given on special machines called linear accelerators (LINAC), which produces high energy X-rays and electrons. Internal radiation, also known as brachytherapy, places small radioactive sources into the tumour or as close to it as possible. This allows a high dose to be delivered to a small volume of tissue.

Radiotherapy may be the sole treatment, or it may be used in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy or both.


In chemotherapy, drugs are used to kill cancer cells. It is a systemic treatment that works on the whole body or system, rather than on a localised area. The drugs are usually injected straight into the bloodstream where they can be carried throughout the body. Administered in treatment cycles that are broken up by rest periods, chemotherapy may be the only treatment needed for certain types of cancer. It may also be used to complement other cancer therapies.

Source : Parkway Medicine

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