Overview of Cancer A cancer is an abnormal growth of cells (usually derived from a single abnormal cell). The cells have lost normal control mechanisms and thus are able to expand continuously, invade adjacent tissues, migrate to distant parts of the body, and promote the growth of new blood vessels from which the cells derive nutrients. Cancerous (malignant) cells can develop from any tissue within the body.

As cancerous cells grow and multiply, they form a mass of cancerous tissue—called a tumor—that invades and destroys normal adjacent tissues. The term tumor refers to an abnormal growth or mass. Tumors can be cancerous or noncancerous. Cancerous cells from the primary (initial) site can spread throughout the body (metastasize).

TYPES OF CANCER Cancerous tissues (malignancies) can be divided into those of the blood and blood-forming tissues (leukemias and lymphomas) and “solid” tumors (a solid mass of cells), often termed cancer. Cancers can be carcinomas or sarcomas.

Leukemias and lymphomas are cancers of the blood and blood-forming tissues and cells of the immune system. Leukemias arise from blood-forming cells and crowd out normal blood cells in the bone marrow and bloodstream. Cancer cells from lymphomas expand lymph nodes, producing large masses in the armpit, groin, abdomen, or chest.

Carcinomas are cancers of cells that line the skin, lungs, digestive tract, and internal organs. Examples of carcinomas are cancer of the skin, lungs, colon, stomach, breasts, prostate, and thyroid gland. Typically, carcinomas occur more often in older than in younger people.

Sarcomas are cancers of mesodermal cells. Mesodermal cells normally form muscles, blood vessels, bone, and connective tissue. Examples of sarcomas are leiomyosarcoma (cancer of smooth muscle that is found in the wall of digestive organs) and osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Typically, sarcomas occur more often in younger than in older people.

Most Common Cancers in Men and Women Group

Cancer in Men:

  • Prostate
  • Lung
  • Colon and rectum
  • Bladder
  • Kidney

Cancer in Women:-

  • Breast
  • Lung
  • Colon and rectum
  • Uterus
  • Thyroid gland

Aggressiveness: The degree to which (or speed at which) a tumor grows and spreads.
Anaplasia: A lack of differentiation of the cancer cells. That is, the cells do not look like normal cells of the same tissue type. Anaplastic cancers are usually very aggressive.
Benign: Noncancerous. Thus, a benign tumor is unable to spread to adjacent tissues or to spread to distant sites through the bloodstream or lymphatic system (metastasize). However, a benign tumor may still grow.
Carcinogen: An agent that causes cancer.
Carcinoma-in-situ: Cancerous cells that are still contained within the tissue where they have started to grow and that have not yet invaded surrounding normal tissue or spread to other parts of the body.
Cure: Complete elimination of the cancer with the result that the specific cancer will not grow back.
Differentiation: The extent to which the cancer cells have matured, ceased to multiply, and taken on normal cellular functions so that they no longer look like rapidly multiplying and primitive cells.
Grade: The degree of abnormality of the appearance of cancer cells on microscopic examination—more abnormal appearing cells are more aggressive.
Invasion: The capacity of a cancer to infiltrate and destroy surrounding tissue.
Malignant: Cancerous.
Metastasis: Cancerous cells that have spread to a completely new location.
Neoplasm: General term for a tumor, whether cancerous or noncancerous.
Recurrence (relapse): Cancerous cells return after treatment, either in the primary location or as metastases (spread).
Remission: Absence of all evidence of a cancer after treatment.
Stage: The extent to which cancer has spread.

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