Cancer has a terrifying reputation. It has not obtained this reputation by accident. It is a disease that has not yet fully given way to the skills and intelligence of medical scientists. Also, as if the pain caused by the disease is not enough, the treatment for cancer, too, inflates heavy suffering on the body.
Cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled and abnormal cell division. As cancer cells travel through the body by way of the blood stream or the lymphatic system, they spread and destroy tissue. The runaway growth of cells is caused by mutations to the DNA in the cells which makes the cells unable to control cell division. This mutation can be either acquired or inherited. The mortality rate in cancer depends on the type of cancer and where it develops.
Among cancers, lung cancer is the biggest killer, causing up to 3 million deaths every year around the world. It affects the above-50 age group population most. It is one of the most common types of cancers that occur in the Western countries. The main risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. Cigarette smoke, especially, contains several carcinogens. Eighty percent of all lung cancers are caused by smoking. Researchers are beginning to recognize second hand smoke as being a cause of this cancer.
Another carcinogen that could cause lung cancer is asbestos. Malignant cells develop in the pleura in mesothelioma cancer. Diagnosis is difficult with mesothelioma cancer. One reason is that the symptoms of mesothelioma cancer occurs only 30-50 years after the exposure to asbestos. Second, the symptoms of asbestos cancer, such as shortness of breath and chest pain, are similar to those of many other medical conditions.
The report of mesothelioma cancer has increased in the last twenty years. Still it is considered a reliably rare form of lung cancer, because the incidence rate is only 1 per 1,000,000 people. By contrast, the incidence of lung cancer is 1,000 per 1,000,000.
Radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy are common treatments for asbestos cancers. However, the conventional treatment methods have not been very successful in the case of asbestos cancers, yielding only a short survival rate of 6-12 months after the presentation.
Again, surgery does not have much effect on small-cell lung cancer. Radiofrequency ablation is a treatment for mesothelioma cancer that has recently become more popular. This technique is especially effective in destroying the cancerous cells inside the tumors. These cells are 'cooked' by inserting a small heat probe into the tumor. This technique is also non-toxic and causes very little pain for the patient.
New techniques of treatment are being developed, such as molecular targeted therapies, for lung cancer. Better and more effective therapies can be expected as scientists and researchers coax out more secrets from the human cells.
Brian P Morse