Sample Biology Dissertation Literature Review Paper on Cancer



Makubate et al. (1516) stated that cancer is as a result of cells overgrowing in an uncontainable manner and meddling with the normal cells. These abnormal cells can spread to a big area finally causing a tumor and requiring immediate treatment to kill them and prolong a patient’s life.  The findings further asserted that when for instance lung cancer spreads to the bone, it still maintains its original name, lung cancer, since that is where it originated. However, according to Ascherman et al. (358), there are so many misconceptions about this disease, which have had many patients feeling guilty or having a laxity of seeking treatment. For instance, some patients may think that they caused the illness to happen to them by doing something wrong and they are punished to suffer from it. Additionally, Ascherman et al. (359), continues to advice that cancer is not contagious and cannot be spread by merely visiting a sick patient in the hospital.

According to Joseph et al. (411), cancer can develop in various parts of the patient’s body, such as the lungs, blood, cervical, breast, bone, throat, colon, prostate, and stomach, among many other parts. Cancer can be caused by several things such as a poor way of life of inactivity, a poor diet such as deficiency of vegetables and fruits in the diet, drug abuse such as tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking, among other factors.

Breast Cancer

Research carried out in the Caribbean by Joseph et al. (411) between 2009 and 2011 suggested that breast cancer detected on 131 women was mainly associated with the breast density and previous surgeries for density level.  Another study by DeSantis et al. (60) educated that breast cancer is an ailment that affects both male and females of all ages and races. Stevanovic, Philip and Nicholas (309) stated in their study that Like all other kinds of cancers, breast cancer commences in the cells which are the major components of all tissues and vital body organs. When this occurs in the breast, the buildup of the unusual excess cells becomes a collection of tissue, which is referred to as a lump, growth or a tumor benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

According to Stephens et al. (402) the noncancerous tumors are often not harmful, don’t affect the tissues around them or spread to other parts, and they do not reoccur once removed. They further stated that malignant tumors cause a hazard to human life by invading and interfering with other tissues and organs. They spread to adjacent body parts like the under arms, collarbone, and chest, by going through the blood or lymph vessels and they often come back after being removed. After the cancerous cells travel and invade other body parts, it is still taken care of as metastatic breast cancer and not cancer of the new parts it has traveled to.

Types and tests of breast cancer

According to the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group, breast cancers include ductal carcinoma, where cancer begins in the lining of the breast duct, being the most widespread affecting around 70% of all female patients. The study also asserts that second most familiar type affecting 10 percent of females is the lobular carcinoma that begins in the lobule of the breast. These two types can occur at the simultaneously, while some women can experience a less common type. Some cancers need hormones to thrive, while others need a protein called HER2 and hormone receptor tests and HER2 tests are the lab tests used on them respectively after a biopsy (The lancet oncology 1010). The outcome of the test determines the mode of treatment the physician will choose for the patient (Goldhirsch et al. 2208; Lawson et al. n.p.).

A study carried out by Foulkes, Ian and Jorge (1940), stated that some patients have a triple negative breast cancer, where they do not have estrogen or progesterone receptors or huge quantities of HER2 protein. They continued to suggest that breast cancer treatment stages include the extension of cancer cells to the lymph nodes, where lymph node biopsy is done, and sentinel lymph node biopsy is used to remove the infected cells surgically. Another study by Wolff et al. (250) assert that another method includes using a CT scan, where an x-ray gives a detailed picture of a patient’s chest or abdomen and contrast materials taken by the mouth or through an injection help to easily detect the abnormal cells. This scan is essential in revealing the cells that have stretched to the lungs or liver (Houssami et al. n.p.).

A study done by Leyden et al. (670) indicated that an MRI is used to establish the body part that has been invaded by cancerous cells; for instance, a patient’s chest, abdomen, or brain. Like the CT scan, this method too can use the contrast materials for easier detection of the abnormal cells. A bone scan involves the introduction of radioactive matter into the blood, which then assembles in the bones and a scanner machine is used to measure the radiation that has collected where the cancer cells are present. A PET scan spots cancerous cells that have multiplied to other sections of the body. This method involves the injection of tiny amounts of radioactive sugar which are identified by the scanner as they appear brighter in the pictures where the cancer cells take them. If the doctor cites that a patient’s cancer is at stage I, then it is in the early stages while a Stage IV is advanced.

Treatment of breast cancer

Dawood (2249), named surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy are the options a patient of breast cancer has for treatment, and a patient may have a combination of more than one type of treatments. Additionally, according to Dawood (2251), a doctor may choose a treatment based on a number of factors such as the stage of cancer, whether the tumor has hormone receptors or too much HER2, based on a patient’s general health, the size of the tumor or whether the patient has reached menopause. The specialists mandated with the responsibility of performing this treatment include surgeons and medical/radiation oncologists. Due to side effects and other complications, a patient may be assigned a team of specialists including a plastic surgeon, an oncology nurse, a physical therapist, a social worker, and a registered dietitian.

According to Serletti et al. (124) when cancerous cells are detected on an individual or they are advised to take a certain method of treatment, they should seek a second opinion from another specialist. A surgeon may opt to do a breast-sparing (removing a part of the breast) or a mastectomy (removing the entire breast), and this solely depends on the volume, site, and stage of the tumor. Another factor includes the patient’s breast size and the specific features of the ailment. Other factors are pegged on a patient feeling about how the surgery will affect their appearance and self-esteem. Other factors include a patient’s take on the radiation therapy and their ability to go to the facility for the treatment.

In their study, Ascherman et al. (360) suggested that after treatment, a survivor may choose to go and have the breast restructured to regain the shape of the damaged tissue to improve their appearance and confidence. Breast shape restoration can be done with breast implants such as the use of silicone gel, or reconstruction using tissues such as skin, fat, and muscles from other parts of the patient’s body. However, the style of rebuilding depends on the patient’s body type, age, and the type of surgery performed. A good diet and a follow-up care must be maintained to ensure quick recovery and a better feeling of the patient. A follow-up is necessary since it helps detect a reoccurrence of cancer, new cancer or a life threatening side effect which may occur from the treatment chosen.

Lung Cancer

According to New York’s PR Newswire, research carried out in 2006, revealed that most women in the US are uninformed about lung cancer as they see it as a man’s disease. The study showed that over eighty thousand women in America alone are hit by lung cancer and over eighty-seven percent of them succumb to the illness. The study also asserted that younger women were in the dark about the risks of lung cancer. The study suggested that women get educated about this disease to reduce the rate of infections and encourage regular testing for early diagnosis. The study specified that it is deadly than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers collectively. This view corresponds that of Bradley et al. (188) who stated that lung cancer is the deadliest compared to all other cancers for all genders since it contributes to one out of four of all cancer deaths.

In a study by Markou et al., (393) lung cancer is categorized into lung carcinoid tumor, non-small and small cell lung cancer, and is the second most widespread following breast cancer in females and prostate cancer in males worldwide. The main task of the lung is to take up oxygen when drawing in air and getting rid of the carbon II oxide when breathing out. Cancerous cells strike the lung in such parts as the coating of bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli (Ashworth et al. 201).   

In a study carried out by Lortet-Tieulent et al. (20), it was revealed that men are twice probable to develop cancer than their female counterparts and the risk even higher for smokers than that of non-smokers.  The study further indicates that white men are twenty percent less probable to have lung cancer as compared to black men, whereas white women are ten percent more prone to get it than the black women. Chances of continued existence of individuals suffering from lung cancer depend on the phase of the infection according to a research by Brahmer et al. (131). Risks factors range from those that can be altered such as smoking, to those that can’t be changed like age and family history. However, a threat factor does not automatically imply that one will get lung cancer, as many people still get the disease with no known risk factors.

Risk factors that lead to lung cancer

Over 80% of lung cancer is caused by the practice of smoking, with the ones with the longest history of smoking at the highest risk. Menthol cigarettes cause more danger as the menthol in the cigar encourages the smoker to breathe in more intensely and consume more packs. Second-hand smokers, where one doesn’t smoke but instead inhales the smoke from the activity of another person smoking beside them, also have a high risk of getting the disease. Over seven thousand deaths of passive smokers occur annually.

Radon is naturally released from the soil when there is a breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks and affects unsuspecting individuals. This is the second leading factor that causes cancerous cells to develop in the lung and cause deaths amongst non-smokers since no one has the ability to see or smell it. Workers working in mines, mills, shipyards and textile plants, among other places with asbestos exposure, are more likely to die from complications of lung cancer. These carcinogens include; diesel exhausts, radioactive ores such as uranium, Arsenic in drinking water, inhaled chemicals such as coal products, mustard gas, and chloromethyl ethers, beryllium, cadmium, silica, vinyl chloride, nickel compounds and chromium compounds, among others. Nutritional supplements like beta carotene that are often taken by smokers have indicated higher risks of amplified cancer.


Treatments include; imaging tests, chest x-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, Positron emission tomography (PET) scan, and bone scan (Rosell et al.231).

Tests for diagnosing lung cancer

  • Sputum cytology: taking a sample of mucus coughed by a patient and tested for cancer cells (Schiller et al. 97)
  • Thoracentesis: testing to figure out whether a buildup of fluid around the lungs is caused by cancer numbing the skin and inserting a hollow needle between the ribs to drain the fluid (International Early Lung Cancer Action Program Investigators 1770)
  • Needle biopsy: use a hollow needle to get a small sample of the cells or tissues.
  • Bronchoscopy: checking for tumors or blockages in the larger airways of the lungs by passing a lighted, flexible fiber-optic tube through the mouth or nose and down into the windpipe and bronchi.


According to Spiro, Michael and Gene (160S), to keep away from lung cancer, one should pass up the habit of smoking, eat a healthy diet, avoid places with fumes that are carcinogens, stay away from cancer-causing chemicals, and avoid radon.

Colon Cancer

Siegel, Carol and Ahmedin (112) stated that colon cancer occurs in the lowest part of the digestive system, while rectal cancer affects the last inches of the colon. Colon cancer cannot be substituted for rectal cancer, but they mostly occur together and are normally referred to as colorectal cancers (Watanabe et al 2).

Huang et al. performed an experiment to establish the effect of c-Myc on Colo-320. Whenever malignancy occurs in cancerous cells, the c-Myc and human telomerase reverse transcriptase gene (hTERT) gene often appear deregulated and over-expressed. The c-Myc induces the activity of hTERT, and the inhibition of c-Myc expression is considered to have some therapeutic value. Huang and his co-researchers designed and used short hairpin RNA to inhibit c-Myc expression in Colo-320 cell, then sought to validate its effect on cell proliferation. After introducing the c-Myc-shRNA into Colo 320 cells, they assessed the effects of c-Myc silencing on tumor cell growth using soft agar assay and DNA synthesis experiments. In the end, it was revealed that c-Myc and hTERT expression substantially reduced in shRNA-transfected cells.

The effects of downregulation included inhibiting cell growth, shortening the telomere lengths, and the suppressing the telomerase activity. These findings demonstrated that shRNA of c-Myc could inhibit the DNA replication in Colo 320 cells, which implies that it can be utilized as a new anticancer tool for therapy in tackling colon cancer. In another experiment by Narayanan et al. found out that Diallyl sulfide (DAS) found in garlic caused cell arrest, significantly reduced cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in Colo 320 DM cells, making DAS a potential drug in the treatment of various cancers.

Liu et al. did an experiment aimed at evaluating Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) monitoring of biochemical changes in apoptosis cells. Their study results indicated that the application of FTIR to monitoring SW620 cells apoptosis could be utilized as a potential diagnostic tool to supervise cancer chemotherapy.

In their study, Maamer-Azzabi , Ndozangue-Touriguine, and Bréard  sought to establish that Navitoclax or ABT-199 has a therapeutic window, where it has an anti-metastatic potential, which can be essential in the treatment of various cancer types. They carried out the experiment using samples of SW480 and SW620 cells that were primed for death and revealed that the cancer cells could go through a transient state, where they are sensitive to BH3 mimetics.


According to Ricci-Vitiani et al. (1), unlike normal cells, which have specific growth, division, and death patterns, cancerous cells can divide and grow uncontrollably, as well as not dying on treatment. The condition begins with noncancerous clumps of cells known as adenomatous polyps, which grow over time to become cancerous (Donehower 10).  The cancerous cells attack the areas around the tumor and tear down the healthy tissue, thereby giving the potential of rise of various incidents of complications.

Research by Chang et al. (433), indicates that after the formation of the malignant tumors, the next stage is marked by the movement of the cancerous cells in the blood and lymph systems and spread to various parts of the body, attacking and destroying healthy tissues. The COLO-320 colon carcinoma cell is found in the lymphatic system, and they can be encouraged by conditions like a poor diet that is high in fats or heavy alcoholism, to destroy the surrounding tissue. The cancerous cells can grow to become tumors and are also be inherited through generations (Solomon, Whitman and Wood 3).

Risk Factors

Polyps, especially adenomas, and inflammatory polyps are normally precancerous, only that the former is usually removed during a colonoscopy, while the latter has a greater potential of becoming cancerous if they get inflamed. Mostly, the occurrence of cancer is diagnosed by an uncontrolled growth of cells or mutations in DNA, which destroy the genes responsible for cell division, making it impossible for cells to correct the DNA damage or commit suicide. Genetic predisposition can also make a person carry certain genetic mutations or faults that risk them to developing cancer in their lifetime. For instance, the SW620 colon carcinoma cells can be transmitted genetically to other generations and more resistant to radiation and chemotherapy (Kawamoto et al. 857). However, sedentary lifestyles and poor diet amongst other life choices have been pointed out as factors that exacerbate the symptoms and occurrence of cancer. Certain traits, habits, and diet, like people who are 50 years and above, obese, taking processed foods that are low in fiber, and very high fat content, heavy alcoholism and smoking are more predisposed to develop the condition (Young,  Richard and David n.p.; Catalán et al. 14). Diseases like diabetes, Crohn’s disease, acromegaly, ulcerative colitis, and radiation treatment for other cancers enhances the risk of developing colon cancer (Wang et al n.p.).


 Treatments depend on the stage of the condition, such that some patients may require surgery, colonoscopy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy (O’Brien yet al. 108). Doctors manage and treat the condition by employing programmed cell death (apoptosis) to destroy the cancerous cells by breaking them down (Sriram et al. 159).

Cervical Cancer

According to a study done in Colombia by Chocontá-Piraquive (270), most of the women who were less knowledgeable about cancer, who lacked medical cover and who did not seek medical advice regularly on cancer testing, were at higher risks of dying from the disease. Additionally, the findings suggested that women who immediately sort medical advice after receiving abnormal results from their Pap smear testing contributed so much to reduce the mortality rate related to cervical cancer.

According to Moyer, (882) cervical cancer is widespread for many women worldwide especially in countries that regular screening does not happen. The author continues to assert that like other cancers, if detected early, it can be treated and a life saved. He states that Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main universal cause of this type of cancer, and it is mainly passed through sexual intercourse. The author adds that HPV does not always lead to cancer, but in some cases it can cause genital warts, which some people show no symptoms at all. Women aged below 26 years can go to hospitals and get a vaccine against HPV. It’s important for women to frequently carry out a Pap test to detect any changes in the cervix (Saslow et al. 156; Arbyn et al. F90).


 In their study, Vaccarella et al. (3269) asserted that over seventy percent of cancers occur in the third world and developing nations. In addition to breast, lung, colon and cervical cancers, there are other cancers such as stomach cancer, liver cancer, throat cancer, brain tumors, and skin cancer, among others that cause death of many people worldwide. They added that cancer causing factors include alcohol abuse, nicotine, bad diet, obesity, physical inactivity, chronic infections and viruses such as HPV, and environmental and occupational risks such as radiations.

In another study by Burgess et al. (963), to prevent cancer, one should avoid behaviors that expose them to these risk factors and regularly go for testing since early detection leads to success in treatment. Management of cancer does not only involve the tests and medication but also involves psychosocial support to improve the patient’s quality of life. When the cancer stage shows a little chance for cure, palliative care is required to offer relief from physical, and help solve psychosocial and spiritual problems.


It is important to note that detecting cancerous cells early, though frequent screening, makes it easy to stop the abnormal cells from spreading further and thus saving a life. It’s also important to understand that there are several treatment methods (surgeries and drugs) depending on the stage and the type of cancer and that not all treatments make a patient feel sicker or cause hair loss (Carlson and Sheila 284).  After treatments, it’s not a hundred percent guarantee that cancer won’t reoccur, as many come back at the same site they originally appeared or at a distant site. This nevertheless doesn’t mean that all patients with this disease end up dying since many of the treatments are successful and end up prolonging a patient’s life.

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