Cancer- A Basic Background

Welcome to the first in a series of articles that will provide some easy to understand information on cancer.

Cancer may affect your life at some point, if not directly, then by finding out a colleague, friend or relative has been diagnosed.  Many people struggle explaining what exactly cancer is and some of the language used can be confusing. This article will explain what cancer is and clarify some commonly used terms.

The World Health Organisation states:

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells. It can affect almost any part of the body. The growths often invade surrounding tissue and can spread (sic) to distant sites. Many cancers can be prevented by avoiding exposure to common risk factors, such as tobacco smoke. In addition, a significant proportion of cancers can be cured, by surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, especially if they are detected early.

World Health Organisation – Cancer

Some of the terms you may hear associated with cancer include:

A tumour, generally regarded as an abnormal growth. Tumours can be benign or malignant. A benign tumour is usually a milder growth that does not immediately threaten life or health.  A malignant tumour is more likely to produce negative health affects, even death. Malignant tumours are referred to as cancer.

If a cancer is described as being metastatic cancer this means the cancer cells have spread from the place where the cancer originated to other parts of the body. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bone, lungs or liver. This means the cancer is more advanced and is more likely to have a negative outcome.  Editor’s note – we stress, never give up hope!

Some cancers can be cured and the person that was affected can go on to live a completely normal life. Other cancers can be treated resulting in either a reduction in or no symptoms, however the person remains uncured and the cancer may return in the future. This is called a state of remission.

There are some cancers that despite best efforts, unfortunately will go on to take the life of the patient. Deadly cancers are normally more aggressive and/or metastatic, or they may go undetected for some time. As a rule of thumb if a cancer is detected early the chance of beating the cancer is greatly improved.

Whilst advances have enabled us to better manage cancer, research continues every day as there is so much more to be revealed. The fight against cancer is far from over- it remains one of the leading killers worldwide – this is the very reason for Play for a Cure Foundations existence – to assist funding the research and support agencies.

The Cancer Council Queensland can provide useful information and resources if you would like to know more, and provides free support services if you need help dealing with your own or someone else’s battle with cancer.

Visit- Cancer Council Queensland or call 131120 for more information.

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