Immunology Paper: Cancer

Cancer is one of the serious diseases that may remain unresponsive to treatment and consequently cause high levels of morbidity and mortality. The present paper will briefly discuss cancer with its clinical manifestations, pathophysiology, and populations at risk. It will also describe the immune response to the cancer attack and various diagnostic techniques. 

Cancer is an oncological disease caused by the uncontrollable and erratic division and growth of cells that may transform into a malignant tumor. These abnormal cells are capable of infiltrating and destroying various tissues, which may lead to metastasis in the body. The accumulation of malignant cells undergoing substantial mutations triggers the variety of cancers. Malignant cells originate from the transformation of initially normal cells that fail to repair significant DNA damages or alterations. Such destructive alterations prevent healthy cells from properly fulfilling their responsibilities and interfere with the normal functioning of body’s organs and systems. Intensive multiplication of already damaged cells, their advantageous survival properties, and “inhibited normal cell controls” facilitate continuous cancer cell proliferation and growth (Scitable, n.d.). This process causes severe impairments in the body. The variable clinical manifestations of cancer primarily depend on the type and location of a malignancy, but some of them are common to the majority of cancerous diseases. Extreme fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, unexplainable weight loss or gain, a persistent cough, trouble breathing, muscle or joint pains, fever, excessive night sweating, and malaise can reveal various cancers. Skin changes, ingestion, impaired bowel and bladder functions, hoarseness, and “unexplained bleeding or bruising” can also accompany the discussed illness (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2015). 

The elderly, people with compromised or suppressed immune systems, and individuals suffering from chronic or autoimmune disorders are more susceptible to cancer. People affected by certain viral or bacterial infections become vulnerable to the disease. Excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, polluted air, frequent exposure to radiation as well as chemicals, and unhealthy lifestyles are harmful to human health and may also cause the development of the disease. Medical research has confirmed that people can have a genetic predisposition to cancer if there is a family history of the disease. 

The immune system is capable of detecting and terminating cancerous cells. Specific “natural killer cells” locate abnormalities so that other cells can remove them (Eldridge, 2016). Healthy cells are able to synthesize tumor antigens and convey alarm messages to the body. Macrophages and T-cells react and start destroying transformed cells with high efficiency. However, precancerous cells can “avoid immune destruction” (Finn, 2012). The inability of the immune system to detect precancerous cells leads to their further division and final transformation into cancerous ones. Furthermore, the immune system cannot terminate the tumor considering that cancer cells can keep it from killing them; however, the immune system still manages to constrain the growth of the tumor (National Cancer Institute, 2016). At a late stage, transformed immune cells start participating in a tumor growth. The initial immune response is helpful in combating damaged or alien cells. The later immune response is extremely harmful due to the involvement of mutated immune cells into a tumor genesis. 

The early recognition of cancer is crucial to the further adequate treatment. Various blood and urine tests, biopsy, and other alternative molecular diagnostic tests are used for identifying abnormalities or alterations of a cancerous nature in the body. “Imaging techniques such as X-rays, CT and MRI scans, PET and ultrasound scans” are actively involved in diagnosing oncological diseases. They assist in detecting a malignancy or other affected organs (Crosta, 2015). The variety of laboratory tests and diagnostic methods means a comprehensive approach to a patient whereas a simple blood count can frequently be sufficient for identifying cancer. 

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In conclusion, any type of cancer is a dangerous and life-threatening disease caused by multiple severe mutations inside various cells and tissues in the body. Any oncological disease significantly interferes with the normal functioning of the body. The elderly, people with compromised or depressed immune system, and those who lead unhealthy lifestyles or receive radiation and chemical exposure are at greater risk of developing cancer. The initial immune response is beneficial to the body but destructive at a late stage of cancer. The usage of traditional and advanced diagnostic techniques and tests are crucial to early cancer detection and treatment.

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