The Ministry and Health and Welfare reported recently that one out of three males and one out of five females get cancer in their lifetime, assuming that they live up to their average longevity span. This alarms us because of the vicinity of cancer to humans. However, do we know much about cancer? Dong-A Ilbo summarized a number of inquires on cancer in question and answer format.
Q. A bump was found during a check-up. Can this be cancer?
A. A bump is scientifically termed as a tumor. There are two kinds of tumors: benign and malignant. Most malignant tumors do not develop into cancer, and they do not recur once gotten rid of by surgery. Therefore too much worry over a tumor is unnecessary. And yet some of the following: intestinal polyps, encysted tumors of ovary, and myoma of the uterus can develop into cancer.
Q. Why does cancer occur and in which parts does it form?
A. The developing factors of cancer vary depending on its type, but four primary sources are common in cancers: an environmental factor, a genetic factor, aging, and a weakened immune system. Cancer can occur in any part of the body where cells are alive except in hair, fingernails and toenails where blood circulation does not reach.
Q. Why is the cancer population growing?
A. It is because the problems of cell aging and a weakened immune system have not been solved yet, although human longevity has sharply increased. Other sources are found in excessive smoking and drinking, intemperate sex, unbalanced nutrition, hormone abuse, and environmental pollution. Also the technological advance in cancer-detecting skills has also contributed the increase of cancer patients as it discovers sophisticated cancer cells that went undetected in the past.
Q. I wonder about the effectiveness of foods for cancer prevention airing on TV programs.
A. The information on foods for cancer prevention is untrustworthy. It is impossible to prevent or cure cancer by eating particular foods often. Instead, this encourages an unbalanced diet and instills a false knowledge such as eating vegetables and fish is the best. The most important thing for preventing cancer is having fresh foods that are not salty and having them a nutritionally balanced way. In addition, it is recommend having plenty of vegetables, fish, and fruits, and cutting the proportion of fatty foods on the meal table to less than 20 percent.
Q. How about taking tonic tablets for cancer prevention?
A. This is also false common knowledge. Eating tonic tablets can cause a breakdown in ones nutritional balance and can incur harms as it accumulates inside the body. If possible, nutrition through foods is best, and nutrition supplementary tablets should be taken and work well only when a certain nutrition deficiency is present. Likewise, restorative oriental medicine treatments should be taken in moderation.
Q. I wonder about the methods of detecting cancer.
A. Most cancers develop undetected before they reach the last stage, so a regular check-up is essential. Blood testing can discover cancer cells for cases of liver cancer, big intestine cancer, ovary cancer, and testicle cancer, but the success rate is limited. Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners can find out cancer cells sized over three mm in a diameter. The technologically updated versions of CT, MRI, Simulation of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans have come in handy. However, PET scans do not always succeed in finding all cancers. The final diagnosis for cancer is done through examining tissues and cells.
Q. Will you introduce a brand-new machine that treats cancer?
A. Many radioactive treatment machines have come out. The Cyber Knife, which guides radiation to local cancer cells and destroys them, is getting popular recently. The first generation of radioactive surgery tools, the Gamma Knife, was mainly used on brain tumors, but the Cyber Knife is widely used in treating liver cancer, womb cancer and other types of cancers. The Hyper Knife, which uses similar principles in cancer treatment, has recently become available. But this machine cannot be applied to organs that have vacant spheres inside of them such as lungs, small and big intestines, and the vertebra, because of the features of ultrasonic waves.
Q. What is the biggest obstacle in treating cancer?
A. Superbly effective anti-cancer medicines have been coming out, but they are supplied at a very expensive price as they are not covered by health insurance. There are many patients who lose their lives without trying any treatment because of their poor financial capabilities. A systematic structure for discussing the issue of health insurance coverage should be established to handle the issue abruptly and effectively when a new medicine appears.
(Sources: Public relations chief of the Korean Cancer Association Park Jong-sub, Kangnam St. Marys Hospital internal medicine (digestive organs) professor Yoon Seung-gyu, Samsung Medical Center surgery professor Jo Jae-won, Asan Medical Center radioactive ray oncology department professor Choi Eun-gyeong, thoracic surgery professor Park Seung-il, Seoul National University Hospital tumor and internal medicine professor Heo Dae-seok, Severance Hospital surgery professor Roh Seong-hun, and Korea University Medical Center internal medicine professor Kim Yeol-hong.)