Cancer. The word itself makes many people feel anxious and scared. Receiving a diagnosis of cancer may be overwhelming and make you feel as if you have lost control. Many people first learned what they know about cancer through the experience of a family member or friend. Some of your thoughts about cancer may not be positive. It is important to realize that cancer is not a single disease, but rather many diseases which can start in different types of cells throughout the body. Because of this, other people’s experiences with cancer may not be the same as yours. Many cancers today can be cured with new technologies and advancements in the oncology field. In other cases, treatments may be given that can extend life while maintaining quality of life. The first step to regaining control and alleviating much of your anxiety is to get informed about your cancer. Very few cancers require emergency treatment, so you have time to learn about your diagnosis and treatment options, ask questions about your disease and get a second opinion.
How does cancer start?
Under normal conditions, cell reproduction is carefully regulated by the body. Sometimes the control mechanisms which oversee cell growth can malfunction, resulting in abnormal development of a tumor. The word tumor refers to a mass or lump of overgrown cells that may be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). If the cells do not have the potential to invade adjacent tissues or spread to distant sites, the tumor is characterized as benign. A malignant tumor is characterized by the cells’ potential to invade and crowd out normal, healthy cells causing damage to adjacent tissues. Cells of malignant tumors may break off and spread through the circulatory or lymphatic systems and implant in other organs and tissues in a process called metastasis. Some types of blood-related cancers do not form tumors, but instead circulate throughout the body.