Cancer ©

How do people get cancer?

In Ireland, someone gets a cancer diagnosis every 3 minutes and each hour someone will die from cancer. That averages at 40,000 new cases of cancer diagnosis each year. The incidence of cancer is growing and by the year 2020, one in two people will get a cancer diagnosis.

This disease occurs when abnormal cells, or cells that have experienced damage to their DNA, grow out of control. The normal cells we have in our body grow, then divide into new cells, and then die. However, cancer cells do not die when they have been damaged. Instead they continue to grow, replicating the damage and sometimes invading other parts of the body. Typically, these cells grow together into a tumour. Some cancers affect blood cells instead and circulate through the bloodstream.

One cause of cancer is genetics. It may be more likely for an individual to develop a certain type of cancer if one or more close relatives also have that type of cancer. Certain gene mutations can also be passed down through families, causing many members of a family to develop the same type of cancer. This is called family cancer syndrome, and genetic testing may help those who are at risk for an inherited cancer to become more informed about their risk and develop future health care plans if necessary.

Although sometimes cancer has no discernible cause, exposure to a known carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent, often makes it more likely that a person will develop cancer. Some known carcinogens are tobacco, alcohol, asbestos, steroidal oestrogens, soot, some types of dyes, and radiation. A poor diet that contains large amounts of processed food and lacks a variety of nutrients has also been shown to be a risk factor for cancer, as has a lack of physical activity. Consumption of alcohol, especially excessive consumption, has been shown to increase one's risk for several types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, throat, pancreas, liver, colon, and breast.

Due to in recent advances in medicine, cancer has become much more treatable and often leads to earlier detection and more effective options for treatment. However, a cancer diagnosis is frightening, and it can bring a wide range of difficult emotions that may have a significant impact in many areas of a person's life. The support of a therapist may help a person to cope with the psychological impact of the cancer and in turn may be an important aspect of treatment for both those who have cancer and indeed their loved ones.

Types of Cancer

There are more than 100 types of cancer that can affect almost any part of the body in a variety of ways. Some cancers grow and spread quicker than others. Some cancers may not be as serious as others, especially when detected early. Different cancer cells respond differently to treatment and this means that treating cancer often requires multiple approaches toward the treatment. These treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, targeted therapy and others. When cancerous tumours go undetected or untreated, they are very dangerous and are often likely to be fatal.

There is no cure for cancer. but many types of cancer are treatable. Partial and complete remission are both possible, however cancer may return. This fact may cause continued anxiety or worry even in those individuals who experience complete remission.


As a survivor of cancer, I am aware of the range of normal of emotions such as anger, anxiety, denial, guilt, sadness, shock and sorrow that accompany this diagnosis. Counselling is a safe, non- judgemental confidential environment for the client to work one-to-one, and/or with a partner, spouse or family member. 


Gene Barry Psychotherapist

© Gene Barry