Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death of Americans: millions of Americans currently have cancer. Cancer can occur in any part of the body, although some cancers are more common or less common than others. But what is cancer, and how does it affect the body?
What is cancer?
To understand what cancer is, we must first examine the cellular level of the body. Each day, millions of new cells are made by your body to replace old or damaged tissue for your organs. However, sometimes old cells do not die and keep growing. Or, new cells are made by the body when the body does not need it.
Additional cells in the body form a tumour, which is just a collection of unneeded cells. Tumours may be either benign or cancerous in nature. Benign tumors (not considered cancerous) can usually be removed, without life-threatening consequences and do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumours (such as cancers or sarcomas) can be removed from the body, but may grow back. Malignant tumors can damage neighbouring tissues and organs and can spread to other areas of the body.
If a tumor is malignant, it can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. This process of cancer moving from one area of the body to another is called metastasis. If even a few cells of a malignant tumor break off from the tumour and enter the bloodstream, they can travel to new organs. These new cells now begin to damage new organs.
Cancers are named usually from the part of the body they originate from. Thus, cancers that originate from the skin are skin cancer, cancer that originates from the brain is brain cancer, and so on. Even though cancers may spread from one part of the body to another, they retain the name of where the cancer originated from.
What causes cancer? Doctors still don't understand this disease and are doing their best to uncover causes...but some behaviors can put you at more risk than other. Which risk factors can you avoid? Continue reading here for more information on