The Anatomy of Cancer

CancerCancer is fundamentally a disorder of growth. All cancer begins in the cells. The human body is made up of more than a hundred million cells. Cancer starts by affecting a cell or a group of cells. Cells produce signals which control the number and frequency of cell multiplication and division. If these signals happen to miss, cells will start to grow and multiply too much, to a point where they form a tumor.

Some types of cancer such as leukemia start from the blood cells. They do not form solid tumors, but the cancer cells build up in the blood and sometimes in the bone marrow. For any cancer to start, there must be some changes within the genes of a cell or a group of cells.

Cells and Cell Division


The body is composed of different cells responsible for various functions. All cells have a control center known as the nucleus. Inside a nucleus, we have chromosomes which are made up of long strings of DNA. The DNA contains millions of genes which consist of coded messages that tell the cells how to behave.

Genes are responsible for cell growth and reproduction and ensures that the process happens in a controlled and orderly manner. They ensure that more cells are produced as they are needed to keep the body healthy. When a cell divides, some changes may happen. This is the change known as mutation.

When mutation happens, it means a cell has been damaged, is lost or copied twice. Mutation can occur naturally when a cell is dividing. Some mutations may mean a cell no longer understands instructions and thus start to grow out of control. There has to be multiple types of mutation before a normal cell turns into a cancer cell.

CELL DIVISIONIn some genes, mutations may mean that too much protein is produced that may trigger cell division. Else, it may mean proteins that tell a cell to stop dividing are not produced. A mutation may happen by chance when a cell is dividing or may be caused by the processes of life inside the cell.


How Cancer Spread

Cancer cells may be transported in the bloodstream or the lymphatic system to other parts of the body. Lymphoma is cancer associated with the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system consists of a network of vessels and organs that help the body responsible for riding off toxins and wastes. Lymphoma starts when lymphocyte, a type of white blood cells starts to mutate.

These cells then begin to grow into new tumors. For the cells to spread, some cells from the primary cancer need to break away and travel to other body parts where they start to grow. Cancer cells don’t stick to one part like normal cells, and thus they move to reproduce in other areas.

If cancer cells go into the small blood cells, they can get into the bloodstream. These are what we call circulating tumor. Cancer cells may also spread through the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of tubes and glands in the body that filters the body fluids and fights infections. The system also traps damaged and harmful cells such as the cancer cells.

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