WHAT IS CANCER?

Cancer is one name for a group of diseases. Each type of cancer has its own name, treatment, and chances of control or cure.

To understand cancer, you must first understand about cells. Cells are the basic building blocks that make up all the tissues and organs in the body. Cells divide to make new cells to replace damaged or old cells. Each cell has a nucleus (command center) that tells the cell when to divide and when to die. When cancer occurs, something goes wrong in the command center. The cancer cells grow out of control. Cancer cells divide when they shouldn't and stay alive longer than they should. Cancer cells can take the place of normal cells. A mass of cancer cells is called a tumor.

Types of Cancer

  • Leukemia. Bone marrow is a factory where our blood is made deep inside our bones. It makes red blood cells (which carry oxygen and nutrients through the body), white blood cells (which fight germs and infections), and platelets (which help stop bleeding). Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. Leukemic cells are sick blood cells that do not work properly and crowd out the healthy blood cells.
  • Lymphoma and Hodgkin's Disease. The immune system is the body's defense system. The immune system finds cells that are not healthy or cells that don't belong in the body and destroys them. The immune system stores fighter cells in the lymphoid tissues in the body. Lymphoma and Hodgkin's disease are cancers of the immune system and lymphoid tissues. The sick cells do not work properly to protect the body, and they crowd out healthy cells of the immune system.
  • Solid Tumors. A solid tumor is a lump of sick cancerous cells stuck together. These sick cells crowd out the healthy cells and keep them from doing their job.