What is Cancer?
Cancer means ‘crab’ in Latin. In ancient times, the word was used to describe the crab-like way cancer cells spread throughout the body. Other terms for cancer are malignancy, malignant tumor or neoplasm (a new growth).
Cancer is not a single disease but a group of over 100 different and distinctive diseases. It starts with an abnormal and excessive growth of cells in one particular area of the body. In some cases, it spreads (metastasises) to other parts of the body.
Doctors have found more than 100 different types of cancer. Cancer is a group of many related diseases that begin in the cells, the body's basic unit of life.
Normally, cells divide to produce more cells only when the body needs them. This orderly process helps keep us healthy. If cells keep dividing when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms. This mass of extra tissue, called a growth or tumor, can be benign or malignant.
Benign tumors are not cancer and are rarely a threat to life; malignant tumors are cancer and they can invade and damage tissues and organs near the tumor.
Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they originated from. For example, cancer that originates from the lung is called lung cancer. Some cancers do not form a lump - for example, leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood.
Why do people get cancer?
The causes of most cancers are not known. Scientists are still learning about things that may put people at higher risk for certain types of cancer. These may include smoking, eating poorly, lack of exercise and expose to certain types of viruses, chemicals and toxins.
Can doctors cure cancer?
Every year, scientists are discovering better ways to treat cancer. That means many people are successfully treated for cancer. However, cancer treatment may cause a remission, which means that the doctor can't find signs of cancer. Sometimes, cancer may also come back, also known as relapse or recurrence.
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