What exactly does “cancer” mean?
“Cancer” is an umbrella term for a variety of diseases with shared characteristics:
- Tissue cells which used to be normal start to multiply out of control. If some parts of the genetic material (genes) have changed, they become cancer cells.
- Cancer cells penetrate into healthy tissue and damage it.
Regardless of where they originate, cancer cells can detach themselves and form offshoots or metastases in other parts of the body.
As we age, the body’s ability to repair altered genes is gradually diminished. We see this clearly reflected in cancer statistics: The average age at which men and women develop the disease is 69. But there are also other types of cancer which tend to affect younger adults in particular. These include, for example, testicular cancer, which appears at an average age of 38.
Why is cancer dangerous?
A tumour damages or destroys the organ in which it develops. This causes complaints, such as pain. Cancer which spreads through the body and metastasises eventually affects vital structures and functions. The person affected becomes ill and could die.
Cancer cells are dangerous, because they stimulate their own growth and are not affected by growth-inhibiting signals from the cellular environment. They can continue to divide without stopping, multiplying in excess, and they can potentially live forever. Cancer cells have the capacity to commandeer existing blood vessels. But the most dangerous characteristic of cancer cells is their ability to penetrate adjacent tissues, multiply within the body and produce tumours in other places. It is this process of metastasis which makes a malignant tumour life-threatening.
When does cancer occur?
Cancer cells develop when certain genes in the body change in such a way that the cells start to multiply out of control. The reason why a normal cell mutates into a cancer cell is, in most cases, impossible to determine. But there are certain factors which increase the risk of developing cancer. These factors include smoking, toxic chemicals, UV radiation from sunlight and alcohol, among others.
Poor, unbalanced nutrition, excess weight and a lack of exercise can also increase the likelihood of some types of cancer. Approximately 5-10% of cancers can be attributed to a hereditary predisposition. Most cancers occur more frequently in elderly people.
Cancer prevention and screening are the main foundation for a cancer-free life. The goal of the German-Iranian Cancer Society is to educate people about all types of cancer and raise awareness about preventive measures. This means actively preventing cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle. And cancer screening is just as important. Because… The earlier that cancer is detected, the better the chances of recovery. Important factors to prevent cancer are:
- Sun protection
- Not smoking
- Moderating alcohol
The purpose of cancer screening is to detect the disease before it can cause damage. It cannot prevent cancer, but it can detect changes in the body which indicate a tumour in the early stages. The earlier that cancer is discovered, the easier it is to treat and the better the overall chances of recovery and survival. So watch your own body for changes, and get regular early detection screenings. Talk to your doctor if you notice any worrying changes in your body or experience persistent symptoms.
Important for everyone
- Screening for colon cancer: If you are 50 or older, get yourself checked regularly
- Screening for skin cancer: Check your skin regularly for any changes
Important for women
- Screening for breast cancer: Check-ups should be done at all ages, and check yourself regularly for any changes. From the age of 50, breast cancer screening should be intensified with systematic examinations.
- Screening for uterine cancer: Once they’ve engaged in sexual intercourse for the first time, women should have their gynaecologist give them a smear test regularly.
Important for men
- Screening for prostate cancer: Men who are 50 or older should ask their family doctor if they should be screened for prostate cancer. Ask your family physician which methods are best for you.
Cancer aid builds an important bridge between Germany and Iran. I value the work done by this organisation very highly and am happy to offer my assistance wherever it is needed.
I was born in Tehran, so I still feel a strong connection to the people of Iran. I am always glad to support charitable projects. My meeting with Kianush is something I'll never forget.
As the daughter of Iranian parents, I have very close ties to the country. The work that the Cancer Society does is very important to me, so I support the work of this organisation whenever I can.