To request Mental Health
Services or to access Mental
Health Crisis Services Call:

Basic Information


In most people's minds there is no scarier diagnosis than that of cancer.  Cancer is often thought of as an untreatable, unbearably painful disease with no cure. However popular this view of cancer may be, it is exaggerated and over-generalized. Cancer is undoubtedly a serious and potentially life-threatening illness. According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, cancers figure among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 8.2 million cancer related deaths in 2012, and the number of new cases expected to rise by about 70% over the next two decades.  However, it is a misconception to think that all forms of cancer are untreatable and deadly. The truth of the matter is that there are multiple types of cancer, many of which can today be effectively treated so as to eliminate, reduce or slow the impact of the disease on patients' lives. While a diagnosis of cancer may still leave patients feeling helpless and out of control, in ma...

Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What is cancer?

  • Normal cells in the body grow and divide for a period of time and then stop growing and dividing, and only reproduce themselves as necessary to replace defective or dying cells.
  • Cancer occurs when this reproduction of cells goes out of control.
  • Cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled, uncoordinated and undesirable cell division.
  • Unlike normal cells, cancer cells continue to grow and divide for their whole lives, replicating into more and more harmful cells.
  • As cancer cells divide and replicate themselves, they often form into a clump of cancer cells known as a tumor.
  • Tumors cause many of the symptoms of cancer by pressuring, crushing and destroying surrounding non-cancerous cells and tissues.
  • Tumors come in two forms.
  • Benign tumors are not cancerous and do not grow and spread to the extent of cancerous tumors. They are usually not life threatening.
  • Malignant tumors grow and spread to other areas of the body in a process known as metastasis.

For more information

What types of cancer can a person get?

  • Though cancer is often thought of as a single disease, there are, in fact, many different types of cancer.
  • Each type has a different set of risk factors, rates of progression, treatment options, and prognosis.
  • The subtypes of cancer get classified and named based on the area of the body where they are originally found.
  • Five of the most common types of cancer are breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and skin cancer.

For more information

What are the causes of cancer?

  • The causes of cancer are not fully understood, but years of research have brought to light risk factors that increase people's chances of getting particular types of cancer.
  • Some of these risk factors are unable to be avoided, while others can be avoided by choosing to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • For example, smoking cigarettes is an avoidable risk factor. Changing your lifestyle to get rid of unhealthy choices such as smoking can be difficult to accomplish (tobacco is an addictive drug and stopping smoking means beating that addiction), but the rewards are real.
  • Stopping smoking and similar healthy lifestyle changes will not insure that you never get cancer, but they will reduce your cancer risk.
  • This is true whether you have never had cancer before, or if you have previously beaten cancer and are wondering what you can do to reduce your chances of relapse.
  • Each specific type of cancer is different and consequently has a different set of associated risk factors.

For more information about risk factors for breast cancer
For more information about risk factors for colorectal cancer
For more information about risk factors for lung cancer
For more information about risk factors for prostate cancer
For more information about risk factors for skin cancer

What are the stages of cancer?

  • Following a positive identification of cancer, doctors will try to establish the stage of the cancer.
  • Cancers are ranked into stages depending on the specific characteristics that they possess; stages correspond with severity.
  • Determining the stage of a given cancer helps doctors to make treatment recommendations, to form a likely outcome scenario for what will happen to the patient (prognosis), and to communicate effectively with other doctors.
  • There are multiple staging scales in use.
  • One of the most common ranks cancers into five progressively more severe stages: 0, I, II, III, and IV. Stage 0 cancer is cancer that is just beginning, involving just a few cells. Stages I, II, III, and IV represent progressively more advanced cancers, characterized by larger tumor sizes, more tumors, the aggressiveness with which the cancer grows and spreads, and the extent to which the cancer has spread to infect adjacent tissues and body organs.
  • Another popular staging system is known as the TNM system, a three dimensional rating of cancer extensiveness. Using the TNM system, doctors rate the cancers they find on each of three scales, where T stands for tumor size, N stands for lymph node involvement, and M stands for metastasis (the degree to which cancer has spread beyond its original locations). Larger scores on each of the three scales indicate more advanced cancer.
  • Still another staging system, called summary staging, is in use by the National Cancer Institute for its SEER program. Summary stages include: "In situ" or early cancer (stage 0 cancer), "localized" cancer which has not yet begun to spread, "regional" cancer which has spread to local lymph nodes but not yet to distant organs, "distant" cancer which has spread to distant organs, and finally, "unknown" cancer to describe anything not fitting elsewhere.

For more information 

What are the symptoms of cancer?

  • Every type of cancer is different, and has a unique set of symptoms associated with it.
  • Some cancer symptoms are manifest outwardly, and are relatively easy to notice and identify (such as a lump in the breast for breast cancer, or blood in the stool corresponding to colorectal cancer).
  • Other symptoms are observable, but harder to decipher.
  • Still other forms of cancer produce no observable symptoms until they are at a very advanced (and therefore hard to treat) stage.
  • Specific symptom detail for cancer subtypes is provided in our cancer subtype documents.

For more information about breast cancer symptoms
For more information about colorectal cancer symptoms
For more information about lung cancer symptoms
For more information about prostate cancer symptoms
For more information about skin cancer symptoms

What are treatments for cancer?

  • Treatments vary based on the type, location, and size of the cancer being treated, as well as patient's age, medical history, and overall health.
  • Each form of cancer is different and calls for a different set of treatment approaches.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are two common approaches used to treat almost all types of cancer.
  • Chemotherapy is commonly used for patients whose cancer has possibly spread to various locations in the body. It can be used to reduce cancer symptoms and pain, and to slow the growth of cancerous tumors.
  • Chemotherapy uses a powerful combination of drugs that are either taken by mouth or injected directly into the bloodstream to target cells in the body that divide and grow quickly and are usually able to destroy these cells.
  • Chemotherapy drugs also kill some regular healthy cells causing side effects such as fatigue, nausea, and hair loss.
  • Radiation therapy is most commonly used to treat cancer that has not spread from its original location.
  • The goal of radiation therapy is to kill cancer cells or at least limit their ability to grow and divide by damaging their genetic material.
  • Like chemotherapy, some normal, healthy cells can also become damaged through radiation therapy.

For more information about breast cancer treatment
For more information about colorectal cancer treatment
For more information about lung cancer treatment
For more information about prostate cancer treatment
For more information about skin cancer treatment

What is recovery from cancer like?

  • Being diagnosed with cancer of any type is a frightening and discouraging prospect which can shatter the illusion control that allows most people to live relatively carefree lives.
  • In the aftermath of cancer, it is normal to experience a sort of hyper-vigilance for health symptoms, and associated fears that even benign aches and pains may indicate a recurrence of cancer.
  • Cognitive psychotherapy can be helpful in learning to manage anxiety symptoms.
  • Careful and systematic cancer monitoring with your physician and avoidance of cancer causing risk factors will insure you are doing all you can to avoid relapse.

For more information about recovering from breast cancer
For more information about recovering from colorectal cancer
For more information about recovering from lung cancer
For more information about recovering from prostate cancer
For more information about recovering from skin cancer

Latest News
Lots of Sugary Drinks Doubles Younger Women's Colon Cancer Risk: Study
Americans Missed Almost 10 Million Cancer Screenings During Pandemic
How the Pandemic Changed Breast Cancer Care
Freezing Tumors Could Be New Treatment for Low-Risk Breast Cancers
Many Americans Wrong About Sun's Skin Cancer Dangers: Poll
Who's Most Likely to Join a Clinical Trial?
Obamacare Gave More Breast Cancer Survivors Access to Breast Reconstruction
When Cancer Strikes Those Under 40, Race Matters
Closely Monitor Heart Health in Cancer Patients Who Get Hormonal Therapies: AHA
AHA News: Cancer May Cause Changes to the Heart Before Treatment
Breast Cancer Over 70: How Much Treatment Is Enough?
New Hope Against a Rare but Incurable Eye Cancer
In Breast Cancer Survivors, Obesity Raises Odds for Cancer's Return
Teen Tanning Bed Ban Would Prevent Thousands of U.S. Melanoma Cases
FDA Approves First AI Tool to Boost Colonoscopy Accuracy
Therapeutic Cancer Vaccine Shows Promise Against Multiple Tumor Types
Could Widely Used Blood Pressure Meds Raise Skin Cancer Risk?
Healthy Living Helps Ward Off Deadly Prostate Cancers in Men at High Risk
COVID Vaccines Might Not Protect Certain Cancer Patients
Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis Can Take Big Toll on Women's Mental Health
Guys, Take the Lead in Self-Checks for Testicular Cancer
The Future of Cancer for Americans
Why So Many New Cancer Diagnoses When Americans Turn 65?
She's Beating Leukemia With a Healthy Change to Her Diet
The 5 Foods That Cut Your Odds for Colon Cancer
Adding in Stem Cell Therapy Helps Beat a Common Childhood Leukemia
COVID Fears Mean More Cancers Are Being Diagnosed at Later Stages
Drug Could Be a 'Game-Changer' in Fighting Esophageal Cancers
Research Reveals How Aspirin Helps Prevent Colon Cancer
Surgery Can Boost Outcomes After Chemo for People With Pancreatic Cancer
Obesity Tied to Shorter Survival in Cancer Patients
Don't Delay Your Cancer Screenings, Surgeons' Group Urges
Drug Boosts Survival for Women With Advanced Ovarian Cancer
Drug Used to Prevent Miscarriages May Be Upping Cancer Rates Decades Later
U.S. Cancer Screening Rates Back to Normal After Pandemic Dip
Cancer Survivors May Face Higher Odds for Heart Trouble
Common Type 2 Diabetes Meds Won't Raise Breast Cancer Risk: Study
Medical Bill Worries Tied to Worse Outcomes for Cancer Patients: Study
More Americans Would Get Lung Cancer Screening Under New Guidelines
Why Is Liver Cancer More Lethal for Black Patients?
Pandemic Putting Added Strain on Parents of Kids With Cancer
Many Cancer Patients Worry Pandemic Will Impact Their Care: Survey
Chronic Heartburn Raises Odds for Cancers of Larynx, Esophagus
Drug Improves Survival for Rare, Deadly Kidney Cancer
Insight Into Why a Prostate Cancer Therapy Works Better for Black Men
Know the Signs of Rare But Deadly Gall Bladder, Bile Duct Cancers
Abnormal Stool Test Result? Don't Delay Your Colonoscopy
Could Too Much Light at Night Raise Your Odds for Thyroid Cancer?
After Long Decline, Breast Cancers in Young U.S. Women Are On the Rise
Drug Combo May Boost Survival for Tough-to-Treat Liver Cancers
Book Reviews
Self-Help Groups
Basic InformationLatest NewsLinksBook ReviewsSelf-Help Groups
Related Topics

Medical Disorders
Pain Management