Can someone be born with cancer

What is cancer

Why is cancer called like the animal? What are tumors? What types of cancer are there? Professor Dr. Günter Schlimok, President of the Bavarian Cancer Society. Medical education and professional cancer advice are particularly important to the internist and oncologist from Augsburg, so that those affected and their relatives can cope with the disease as well as possible.

Cancer: knowledge gaps in the confusion of feelings

Most people are initially shocked when they find out they have cancer. The diagnosis plunges many into an acute crisis that they somehow have to cope with in everyday life. Relatives, friends and colleagues are also confronted with their very own feelings when they hear that someone has such a "serious" illness. Because when we hear the word “cancer” all kinds of thoughts go through our heads - from the hope of a cure to the fear of an early end of life.
“In order to better understand doctors and learn more about the disease, many cancer patients and their relatives search the Internet for reliable information about cancer. Unfortunately, there are also confusing half-truths and unproven claims circulating there that confuse and do not help to cope with one's own confusion of feelings, ”explains Professor Günter Schlimok. During his active time as chief physician at the Augsburg Clinic, he specialized in the treatment of solid tumors, leukemia and lymphomas and stem cell transplantation. The oncologist explains the most important terms for the Bavarian Cancer Society.

The disease cancer actually got its name from the animal, the cancer: The name goes back to Hippocrates (460 to 370 BC), the most famous doctor of the ancient world. The Hippocratic Oath was later ascribed to him.
Hippocrates was born on the Greek island of Kos and practiced there as a doctor for many years. During examinations of various organs, he had discovered malignant tumors. When examining the breasts of older women, he often found swellings and referred to them as "karkinos" - because they reminded him of the crabs when they burrow in the sand.

Cancer occurs when the genes in the body's cells are changed. Although there are more than 300 different types of cancer with subtypes, they share these three common characteristics:

  1. The genetically modified body cells divide and multiply in an uncontrolled manner.
  2. The cancer cells that develop spread to the surrounding tissue. They penetrate the tissue and can displace and destroy it.
  3. In the course of the disease, the cancer cells can detach themselves from the place where they originated and also spread to other parts of the body. These offshoots of the cancer cells are also called daughter tumors; doctors refer to them as metastases.

Here you can find out more about the question: "How common is cancer?"

The cancer cells can form in different places in the body. Therefore, doctors differentiate between two fundamentally different types of cancer:

  1. Solid tumors: The cancer cells are fixed in an organ, they are solid or hard. In the early stages of the disease, the cancerous tumor can be removed during an operation.
  2. systemic cancers: The cancer cells form in the body's transport systems - then the blood system or the lymphatic system are affected. Such cancer cells are found throughout the body at the onset of the disease and cannot be removed with an operation.

1. Solid tumors: Cancer can affect organs

The first group of cancers includes solid tumors that arise in a fixed location. One then speaks of, for example, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer or lung cancer.

A further distinction is made between solid tumors:

  • (the) carcinoma: The cancer cells originated in the mucous membranes of organs.
  • (the) sarcoma: The cancer cells developed in bones, cartilage or muscles.

The organs also include the skin, where cancer cells can also form. The malignant skin cancer is called "black skin cancer", doctors refer to it as malignant skin cancer.

  • malignant - Latin for malignant
  • benign - Latin for benign

2. Cancer cells can form in the blood system and in the lymph system

The second group of cancers includes the malignant systemic diseases in which tumor cells develop in the blood system or in the lymphatic system:

  • Blood cancer, leukemia: If the white blood cells in the blood behave abnormally, blood cancer can develop. It is typical of leukemia that an extremely large number of white blood cells are formed.
  • Lymph gland cancer, (the) lymphoma: Like the blood system, the lymphatic system runs through the body. Similar to the blood vessels, the lymph vessels also contain a liquid, that is the lymph, a watery, light yellow liquid. Lymph glands (also called lymph nodes) are located in certain parts of the body. There the lymph is filtered and pathogens are disposed of. Small white blood cells, more precisely the lymphocytes, are responsible for this targeted immune defense. Medical professionals speak of malignant lymphoma when these lymphocytes develop malignantly.

Cancer is a very complex disease because even the individual subtypes can differ from patient to patient. The cancer cells in a patient's tumor are also different and can also change in the course of the disease.

Scientists, doctors and, last but not least, patients therefore place great hopes in personalized cancer medicine - doctors also speak of individual, tailor-made or targeted cancer therapy.

This personalized cancer medicine is made possible by new diagnostic methods with which one can examine the tumor tissue or the blood of a patient for so-called "biomarkers". This can be used to predict whether a certain treatment method will work or not. In contrast to chemotherapy, personalized cancer therapy should primarily target the tumor cells - but if possible not the healthy cells of the body.

Researchers assume that personalized cancer therapy will continue to establish itself in the next 10 years for some tumor diseases such as breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer.

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