What Is Cancer And How Is It Diagnosed?
Facts about Cancer
Cancer is a word used to describe a group of diseases. Each has its own name (such as lung cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, etc.), its own treatment and its own chances of being cured. Each type of cancer is different from the others in many ways, but every cancer, no matter what it’s called or where it’s located, is a disease of the body’s cells. Cells are a basic unit of any living thing. They are constantly working in all parts of the body. Worn out cells continuously replace themselves by dividing in two.
Cancer causes cells to change so they can’t do their normal jobs for the body. When a cancer cell divides, it makes more cells like itself – cells that are not normal. These cells keep dividing into more cells. Eventully, they crowd out and destroy healthy cells and tissues that the body needs. A group of cells that keep growing and crowding out normal cells is called a tumor. A benign tumor can crowd out healthy cells, but cannot spread to other parts of the body. A malignant tumor is a cancer. It takes over other healthy cells around it and can also spread to other parts of the body. Although cancer can spread to other parts of the body, it is not contagious.
Cancer must be diagnosed by looking at the affected cells under a microscope. Although other tests may be done to locate various problems associated with cancer, the most common test to collect cells for evaluation is a biopsy. During a biopsy, a physician removes a tissue sample (cells) from the suspected cancer site. A pathologist, a cell specialist, then reviews the cells under a microscope to determine if cancer is present.
Once a positive cancer diagnosis is made, patients will go through a number of other tests to see if the cancer has spread. These tests can include X-Rays, CT scans, and further biopsies.
Cancer is a general term for a large group of 100 diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth, invasion and spread of abnormal cells to other parts of the body. At diagnosis, the information provided about your cancer may include information such as; the size of the tumor, site of the disease, staging of the disease, spreading of disease to lympth nodes, and metatasis (spreading) to other parts of the body. This cancer information will be used in determining your course of treatment. The treatment each patient receives is directed by the various factors of your individual disease and patients with same site disease may need diffeent treatments.
You may be referred to an oncologist, a cancer specialist, for treatment recommedations.
Once a cancer has been diagnosed you will then be scheduled to meet with a medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, or both oncologists. The medical oncologist specializes in chemotherapy treatments, the radiation oncologist specializes in cancer treatments requiring radiation therapy. The oncologist will review your disease with you and recommend and discuss options and develop a plan for the treatment of your specific disease.