World Cancer Day is an important day since it remind us to take care of ourselves and those we love. Every year on February 4th, we join our forces to raise awareness around the impact of cancer.
This year, we are focusing on the importance of early diagnosis and prevention.
Early detection and prevention are essential to reduce the number of our fellow human beings who are faced with any form of cancer.
On the occasion of World Cancer Day, Konstantina Georgiadou, Medical Visitor and Polina Nikolaou, Sales and Marketing Manager – Melidonia, answer the question, What is cancer?
Initially, the origin of the word “cancer” is credited to the father of Medicine, Hippocrates, to Celsus and Galen, who used this term in attempt to describe the ulcer-forming and non-ulcer-forming tumours. In ancient Greek, the term refers to a crab, most likely applied to the disease because the finger-like spreading projections from a cancer called to mind the shape of a crab.
Cancer is statistically considered as one of the most serious health problems in the developed world. With the term cancer, we describe a group of diseases whose cause lies at the cells of the body. Abnormal regulatory mechanisms and uncontrolled growth of the cells is a defining characteristic of the disease. The buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue, called a tumour. There are more than 200 types of cancer and each type requires different treatment.
Lifestyle and environmental factors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, are responsible for the largest proportion of all cancer cases. However, there are cancers that can be attributed to genetic factors. Therefore, in modern medicine various genetic tests have been developed, which estimate a person’s chance of developing cancer in their lifetime. This is done by searching for specific changes in a person’s genes, called genetic mutations. Many types of genetic tests are available to analyze a wide range of gene mutations that can determine whether there is an increased risk of developing various types of cancer such as breast, ovarian, colon, thyroid, prostate, pancreatic, melanoma, kidney and stomach cancer.
What are the benefits of genetic tests and what information do they provide?
They can help predict and manage our risk of a particular disease, and confirm the existence of genetic mutations that may pass the risk of developing cancer to our children. It is important to know that no genetic test can predict with certainty whether or not a person will get cancer. It can only tell us whether we are at a higher cancer risk than average. It is worth noting that not all people with a gene mutation will develop cancer. That is, a woman who has a 50%-70% risk of developing ovarian cancer may never develop the disease, while a woman with a 25% chance of ovarian cancer may eventually develop the disease. Awareness of cancer risk makes it possible to modify accordingly the routine preventive exams so that in case of any mutation, this will be detected as early as possible, thus increasing the chances of successful treatment.
Genetic testing is a personal decision made based on risk factors, among other things. These factors include family history, multiple cancers, cancers at a young age or even rare types of cancer.
It would be wise to make such a decision together with a specialist consultant since they will be able to help us with any questions we may have, provide solutions and information about the necessity or not of genetic testing, and guide us after receiving the test results.
Constantina Georgiadou – Medical Representative
Polina Nikolaou– Sales and Marketing Manager