What is cancer?
Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells. Cancer cells rapidly reproduce despite restriction of space, nutrients shared by other cells, or signals sent from the body to stop reproduction. Cancer cells are often shaped differently from healthy cells, they do not function properly, and they can spread to many areas of the body. Tumors, abnormal growth of tissue, are clusters of cells that are capable of growing and dividing uncontrollably; their growth is not regulated.
Oncology is the branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
What do the terms benign and malignant mean?
Tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors tend to grow slowly and do not spread. Malignant tumors can grow rapidly, invade and destroy nearby normal tissues, and spread throughout the body.
What do the terms "locally invasive" and "metastatic" mean?
Cancer is malignant because it can be "locally invasive" and "metastatic":
- locally invasive - the tumor can invade the tissues surrounding it by sending out "fingers" of cancerous cells into the normal tissue
- metastatic - the tumor can send cells into other tissues in the body, which may be distant from the original tumor
What are the different types of cancer?
Cancer is not just one disease but rather a group of diseases, all of which cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Cancers are classified either according to the kind of fluid or tissue from which they originate, or according to the location in the body where they first developed. In addition, some cancers are of mixed types. The following five broad categories indicate the tissue and blood classifications of cancer: