What is Cancer?

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There is much about cancer that is still unknown, but medical advances and continuing research are updating our knowledge about this disease everyday. Cancer is commonly talked about on the news and we hear about the neighbor, friend or family member who has it, but how much do we personally know about it? This article will explore some issues that you may or may not already know and will include some information about how you can reduce your risk of developing this killer disease.

Cancer is the number two killer of Americans, right behind heart disease. Although the term “cancer” usually connotes a single disease there are many types of cancer, such as breast, prostate, skin, liver, throat and brain to name a few. Each type of cancer has its own prognosis, survival rate and treatment, but the general rule of thumb is the sooner the better, meaning, the sooner it’s detected and treated the better the prognosis for the patient.

So, what exactly is cancer? Simply stated cancer is a malignant tumor with unlimited growth potential. It basically begins with a single cell that has changed and divides again and again until there is a mass of mutated cells all clumped together. These cells are called malignant because they cause injury to the body (not all tumors are cancerous or malignant) and the body’s immune system is unable to stop the growth of these cells. They can wreak havoc to the different systems of the body as they spread from organ to organ, killing healthy cells along the way.

Remember Lance Armstrong, the guy who has claimed seven Tour de France victories?  He is a cancer survivor. Several years ago he was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer, which had spread to his lungs and brain. He was given less than a 50% chance for survival. A long story short, his cancer is in remission and he has braved overwhelming odds, not only to survive, but also to return to his career and compete as the world’s best cyclist. He has won many sports accolades above and beyond his seven Tour de France victories, and he has been actively involved in the fight against cancer. He is now retired from racing, but his legacy and bravery will live on.

If cancer can attack a world-class athlete then none of us are immune. In fact, 40% of Americans will develop some type of cancer in their lifetime. That’s two out of five! For the American that means cancer will strike more than once in your family!

With that in mind, what can you do to reduce your risk of developing it?

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