Cancer Facts

Some important facts about cancer

by Dr. Michelle Vallie, LCPC, PhD.

One reason why the early warning signs of possible serious illness should not be ignored is that most of them suggest the possibility of cancer. Since fear of the unknown can be far more frightening than the fear of the known, here for your information are some basic facts about this dreaded disease. To begin with, cancer is not a single disease. It is the name of a group of diseases in which body cells multiply and spread uncontrollably. This can happen in virtually any part of the body. Except in blood cancers such as leukemia, the unchecked spread of cells develops into a malignant tumor, which generally keeps growing and is likely to invade neighboring tissues, with potentially fatal consequences. Non-cancerous tumors are known as benign. Although such tumors may grow, their cells do not multiply and spread. A cancer that occurs in bone or muscle tissue is technically called a sarcoma. One that occurs in the skin, a gland, or the lining of an organ such as the lung, liver,bladder or brain is called a carcinoma. But physicians also use many other words as labels for specific types of cancer.

Medical scientists have identified many of the causes of cancer, smoking is associated with lung cancer, for example.They believe that about 80 percent of all cancers are due to contamination of the environment by chemicals called carcinogens. But exactly how these substances cause cells to become malignant is still not known. Among possible carcinogens are industrial substances asbestos, tar and chromium, and nuclear radiation. But even some of the things you eat and drink may make you more or less susceptible to malignancy. And although there is no evidence that cancer is contagious or can be inherited, it does seem to occur more often in some families. The implication is that your home environment and diet may affect your susceptibility to malignant tumors. For this reason physicians advise their patients to give up smoking and heavy drinking , but also to eat certain foods, animal fats in particular in moderation. So remember you should not assume that cancer is incurable. Instead be alert for early symptoms, and see your physician promptly if any develop.