What is Cancer?
Cancer develops when cells in the body begin to grow when they are not supposed to. The cause of cancer lies within the genetic building blocks (DNA) of a person’s cells. If the DNA becomes sufficiently disorganized or damaged, cancer may develop. Some cancers form tumors. Other cancers, like leukemia, do not.
A tumor is a mass of cells. Tumors are either benign or malignant. Benign tumors usually grow very slowly and generally do not spread. Doctors can usually remove most of them, if needed. In the beginning, malignant tumors (generally thought of as ‘cancerous’ tumors) usually stay in the organ where the cancer started. This is called localized disease. Cancers are most curable before they spread. This is why early detection is so important.
As cancers continue to grow, they are more likely to spread (metastasize) and are much more difficult to control or cure. When cancer cells metastasize, they will invade normal, healthy tissue and begin to take it over.
Radiation therapy affects the genetic material in cells and prevents them from dividing to make new cells. This slows the growth of the cancer, or may stop it altogether.
What is staging?
Staging is the process of finding out how far the cancer has spread. Staging the cancer is a vital step in determining your treatment choices, and it will also give your health care team a clearer idea of the outlook for recovery.
Staging can take time, and people are usually anxious to begin treatment soon. Do not worry that the staging process is taking up treatment time. Keep in mind that by staging the cancer, you and your health care team will know which treatments are likely to be the most effective before beginning the treatment.
There is more than one system for staging. After looking at your test results, your doctor will tell you the stage of your cancer. Be sure to ask your doctor any questions you might have about what the stage of your cancer means and how it will impact your treatment options.
Last modification date:
Wed Dec 27 15:43:12 2006