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What is Cancer?

How cancer works: From


Origins of CancerCommon Cancers

Cancer is a term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.

Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer. The main categories of cancer include:

  • Carcinoma - cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.
  • Sarcoma - cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue.
  • Leukemia - cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the blood.
  • Lymphoma and myeloma - cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system.
  • Central nervous system cancers - cancers that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.

Origins of Cancer

All cancers begin in cells, the body's basic unit of life. To understand cancer, it's helpful to know what happens when normal cells become cancer cells.

The body is made up of many types of cells. These cells grow and divide in a controlled way to produce more cells as they are needed to keep the body healthy. When cells become old or damaged, they die and are replaced with new cells.

But sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. The genetic material (DNA) of a cell can become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. When this happens, cells do not die when they should and new cells form when the body does not need them. The extra cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumor.

Not all tumors are cancerous; tumors can be benign or malignant.

  • Benign tumors aren't cancerous. They can often be removed, and, in most cases, they do not come back. Cells in benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Malignant tumors are cancerous. Cells in these tumors can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another is called metastasis.

Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they begin. For example, cancer that begins in the stomach is called stomach cancer. Some cancers do not form tumors. For example, leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood. (Source:

Common Cancers

Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer Treatment

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Treatment
Breast Cancer Screening
Breast Cancer Prevention
Male Breast Cancer Treatment
Breast Cancer and Pregnancy

Colon Cancer

Colon Cancer Treatment
Rectal Cancer Treatment
Colorectal Screening
Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial Cancer Treatment
Endometrial Cancer Screening
Endometrial Cancer Prevention

Head and Neck Cancer

Oral Cancer Prevention
Oral Cancer Screening
Cigarette Smoking: Prevention and Cessation
Smoking and Continued Risk in Cancer Patients

Lung Cancer

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment
Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment
Lung Cancer Prevention


Melanoma Treatment
Prevention of Skin Cancer

Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

Adult Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Treatment

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Epithelial Cancer Treatment
Ovarian Germ Cell Tumor Treatment
Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumor Treatment
Ovarian Cancer Prevention

Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer Treatment
Prostate Cancer Prevention

Rectal Cancer

Colon Cancer Treatment
Rectal Cancer Treatment
Colorectal Screening
Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Cancer Counseling Line

Monday - Friday
8:30 am to 5 pm MT

A FREE telephone counseling service designed to help all people who are affected by cancer.

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