What Is Cancer? – A Beginner’s Guide To The C Word

Understanding cancer and how your body reacts can empower you to make positive lifestyle changes.

Knowing why you are doing something keeps you motivated to make that change.


So What Actually Is Cancer?

The World Health Organisation describes cancer as:


“A large group of diseases that can start in almost any organ or tissue of the body when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably, go beyond their usual boundaries to invade adjoining parts of the body and/or spread to other parts of the body.”


This statement is emotional for us to read as cancer patients but let us go beyond the headline and look at what is happening at a cellular level.

Understanding how cancer works isn’t simply an intellectual exercise, but it has valuable and practical impacts on making your medical treatment and healthy lifestyle activities more meaningful.


How Does Cancer Grow?

We have trillions of cells in our body, and all these cells have a life cycle.

The creation of a cell happens when one cell splits into two, making an exact copy of itself in a process called Mitosis, and your genes tightly control this process.


Image of cancer cell dividing into two.

Imagine but happening billions of times a second across your entire body


Sometimes, the control can go wrong, and a new rogue cell is created when the cell splits. This rogue cell continues to divide, creating more rogue cells, which is the start of cancer.

The problem with these rogue cells is the genetic instructions are damaged, so they do not complete their life cycle because they do not die.

They continue to multiply and grow, reeking havoc by affecting the function of healthy cells.


Genetics or Lifestyle?

Cancer is commonly considered a genetic disease rather than a lifestyle disease.

However, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 90% of cancers are caused by environmental factors such as smoking, diet, obesity, alcohol, hormones and pollution.

Understanding the link between cancer and lifestyle is one of the primary ways to motivate you to make positive lifestyle choices, because you can clearly establish the cause and effect between your long term choices and your inevitable health outcomes.

Victoria Walsh

Never miss a thing when you join our mailing list!

Despite having the support of family, friends, and medical professionals, it’s normal to feel isolated and alone. 

However, you are not alone. You are now a part of a community who have gone through similar experiences and have come out stronger on the other side. What-Next is run by individuals who have either had cancer or supported someone with cancer.

We want you to know that you can overcome this challenge and live your best life along the way.

Want To Share Your Story?

If you're interested in being featured on our website, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at victoria@what-next.org or by using our form.