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What Is Cancer?

POSTED BY: Don Lau Center For Cancer Care at Florida Hospital Tampa

These days, most of us know someone who has been affected by cancer. The disease not only affects the person who is diagnosed, but also their loved ones. Your first line of defense? Get informed.

According to the National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health), cancer is defined as “diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues.” While the disease typically originates in the organ or cell in which they start, cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph nodes. There are currently more than 100 different types of cancer.


In a way, cells work like cars. For the cell to function properly there has to be a way to control how fast it goes. Normal genes called proto-oncogenes function a lot like gas pedals. They help the cell grow and divide at a healthy speed. But when a proto-oncogene is mutated, it can be compared to a gas pedal that is stuck down, causing the cell to divide out of control.


If a cancer is called “in situ” it hasn’t invaded other tissues. Cancers that have “metastasized” have spread to another part of the body and increased in severity. Stage levels I, II, III or IV might be given to various cancers to measure their spread throughout the body.


More aggressive treatments are available that extend the quality and length of life with cancer. Each year scientists are finding better, faster detection methods through biomarkers for lung cancer and density screenings for breast cancer. As a result, death rates for cancer have been declining steadily in majority of the United States.


On Thursday, March 25, Florida Hospital Tampa will present a cancer symposium, Knowing the Big C’s, where our experts will discuss current prevention, treatment, support and therapy for cancer. Learn more or register today for this important event.