What is Cancer?

Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the body. Cancer cells rapidly reproduce despite restriction of space, nutrients, or signals sent from the body to stop reproduction. Cancer cells are often shaped differently from healthy cells and do not function properly. Cancer cells can spread to other areas of the body. Tumors are abnormal growths of tissue that are capable of growing and dividing uncontrollably; their growth is not regulated.

Oncology is the branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Types of Tumors

  • Benign: non-cancerous
  • Malignant: cancerous

Locally invasive vs. Metastatic

A tumor is considered malignant when it can be locally invasive and metastatic:

  • Locally invasive: The tumor can invade the normal tissues surrounding it.
  • Metastatic: The tumor can send cells into other tissues in the body away from the original tumor site.

Primary tumors vs. Secondary tumors

The original tumor is called the primary tumor. A secondary tumor is when the original tumor has spread to other areas of the body. 

How is the cancer type named?

Cancer is named after the part of the body where it originated. Staging is the process of determining whether cancer has spread and, if so, how far.

What are the different types of cancer?

Cancer is not just one disease but rather a group of diseases, all of which cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Cancers are classified either according to the kind of fluid or tissue from which they originate, or according to the location in the body where they first developed. In addition, some cancers are of mixed types. The following five broad categories indicate the tissue and blood classifications of cancer:

What causes cancer?

Cancer has no one single cause. The factors involved may be genetic, environmental, or lifestyle characteristics of the individual.

What are the risk factors for cancer?

Some cancers, particularly in adults, have been associated with certain risk factors. A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease.

People who have an increased risk of developing cancer can help to protect themselves by scheduling regular screenings and check-ups with their physician and avoiding certain risk factors.

Cancer treatment has been proven to be more effective when the cancer is detected early. The following risk factors and mechanisms have been proposed as contributing to the development of cancer:

  • Lifestyle factors – diet, exercise
  • Genetic factors – family history
  • Virus exposure
  • Environmental exposures – smoking, alcohol use

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer or to schedule an appointment, contact Christian Hospital at 314.747.9355 or toll-free at 877.747.9355 or email us.