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2.1.2 Detecting and Treating Cancer
(a) Risk Factors for Cancer
There are many things that increase the chance of developing cancer including chemical carcinogens,
age, family history and viruses.
Some carcinogens include hair dyes, arsenic, asbestos and alcohol. As you age there is more time for dna
mutations which leads to more cancers. People with inherited genes make them more likely to develop
certain types of cancer. Some viruses such as the HPV virus can lead to cancer too.
Studies show that people who eat more processed meats have an increased chance of developing
bowel cancer. Those who consume tobacco are at a higher risk of lungs, mouth, throat etc cancer.
The BRCA1 gene is shown to increase the chances of developing breast cancer massively.
(c) Detecting Cancer
Some cancers such as lung cancer can be detected through the use of xrays. A mammogram is used to
check the breast for small tumors. CT scans produce 3D images of the body which can be used to detect
tumors deep in the body. Ultra sounds can also be used to detect tumors in soft parts of the body. An
MRI is magnetic resonance imaging and is more detailed than a CT.
(d) Menopause and Cancer
Prevalence is the number of existing cases of a disease in a given population at a given time.
There is evidence that the older the woman the higher the chance of developing breast cancer- this is
because of reduced levels of oestrogen which helps protect from the development of breast cancer.
(e) Treating Breast Cancer
Surgery is often the main course of treatment for breast cancer that involves the tumor/s being cut out.
Sometimes a mastectomy is the only option where the entire breast is removed.
Other treatments include chemotherapy which involve chemicals that are toxic to fast dividing cells such
as those in tumors but also hair. Radiotherapy uses ionising radiation to destroy cancer cells. It can be
used more accurately target damaged cells. Tamoxifen is a hormone treatment. It prevents oestrogen
hormone from entering breast cancer cells as it promotes growth. Immunotherapy use the drug
herceptin which is an antibody able to bind specifically to protein receptors on cancer cells, blocking cell
Complementary therapies are used to make the patient feel better during treatment. It can be used to
help the symptoms of the treatment including hypnotherapy and relaxation therapy.
(f) Clinical Trials
All new drugs are put through rigorous testing in the form of a clinical trial. Phase 1 consists of a small
number of people who are given a low dose of the drug. Phase 2 is used to work out whether the drug
works well enough to be tested on a large number of people. Phase 3 compares the new drug with
already existing drugs. Phase 4 trials happen when doctors have permission to prescribe the drug and
are able to work out any side effects.
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The main conflicts arise in the cost of treatments and who should pay for them (post-code lottery).
Many treatments have significant side-effects (e.g. sterility or radiation damage). Risk-benefit
calculations may be made. Living with cancer is socially and mentally debilitating for the patient and their
family and can cause great financial strain.…read more