Drew Rae answered on 18 Jun 2011:
Sorry not to have answered this yet. There are ways of treating cancer, but no absolute cure. For some cancers like cervical cancer there are vaccines that fight the main viruses that cause the cancer. For other cancers, we can treat them with drugs, chemotherapy and radiation. Both radiation and chemotherapy essentially try to kill the cells that make up the tumours without killing too many of the healthy cells.
Amy MacQueen answered on 21 Jun 2011:
There are many different types of cancer caused for many different reasons. Essentially cells start behaving abnormally and do not respond to normal control and checking by the body…this means that they grow unchecked and form tumours (the lumps that you get). Some of these cancers are caused by infections by pathogens like viruses…some are just the result of old age where cells have an increased burden of mutations and start acting weird, some are caused by genes inherited from your parents like Kimberley mentioned.
Usually (as with most things) it can be said that cancer is multifactorial – this means there are a lot of different things contributing to its cause. “Cancer” is more the name we give to the manifestation of the diseases – the effect we see. This leads us to believe that all “cancers” are very similar but it is not strictly true.
Because all cancers are very different there is never going to be one cure that will work on all cancers. As Drew said there are vaccines to stop you getting some of the viral infections (like HPV) that lead to cancer. There are also very good therapies for some sorts of cancer (like herceptin for certain breast cancers) that essentially can “cure” the individual. But there is not way of ensuring that a person will never get cancer again. Cancer is a very horrible disease and causes a lot of pain – surgery to remove the tumours, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and pain management medication are the main treatments at the moment but these are far from perfect. My Granny died from colon cancer in February and it is not a nice thing to watch someone go through – especially when you can do little to help. This is why we need lots more work to be put into finding the root causes of certain kinds of cancer – then we can find ways of treating them!
You can’t stop yourself getting cancer, but you can do things to reduce your likelihood of it – and as Julia said this is living a healthy lifestyle and not putting harmful chemicals into your body through drinking excessively, taking drugs or smoking. The likelihood of getting skin cancer can be reduced by spending less time in the sun and always wearing sun cream.
Even if you have a family history of certain cancers – like breast or colon cancer you don’t need to spend all your time worrying about if you will get it. You can get checkups with the doctor and hospital on a regular basis to monitor your body in more detail so that they can pick up the early signs of cancer and stop it progressing.
Hope this was helpful! 🙂
Sara Imari Walker answered on 22 Jun 2011:
Hi Mark! Amy’s outlined a very thorough and fantastic take on the modern state of cancer treatment =)