Internal Medicine

General Cancer Information

Cancer is a disease that occurs when cells in the body begin to divide at a faster rate than the body requires. These rapidly dividing cells grow into a lump that is known as a tumor. The tumor can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). There are more than 100 types of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma. Cancer symptoms vary depending on the type. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery.  Learn more about cancer types, risk factors, diagnosis and treatment.

Cancer Staging

One of the biggest concerns about a cancer diagnosis is whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) beyond its original location. To determine this, the doctor assigns a number (I through IV) to your diagnosis. The higher the number, the more the cancer has spread throughout your body. This is called “staging.” The doctor needs this information in order to plan your treatment.

Causes

Many factors can cause the development of cancer in the body. Some of these factors, such as heredity (family members who have the disease) cannot be avoided. Others, such as lifestyle, can be controlled.

For instance, the use of tobacco is one of the main causes of cancer, especially lung cancer. Tobacco use, whether in the form of smoking, chewing, or exposure to second-hand smoke (smoking by others), can also cause cancer of the mouth and larynx, esophagus, throat, and many other parts of the body.

Other primary causes of cancer include:

  • Diet/nutrition: The proper diet is always important, but a poor diet might also increase your risk of cancer. For instance, eating large amounts of high-fat foods can contribute to cancer of the colon and prostate. Exercise is also key. Excess weight might be a contributing factor for various types of cancer, including breast, uterus, ovary, prostate, and colon.
  • Environment: Cancer can develop if the person is exposed over a period of time to various chemicals in the environment, including pesticides, asbestos, and radon.
  • Exposure to radiation: Too much exposure to the sun (ultraviolet radiation) can cause skin cancer. In addition, over-exposure to X-rays or to radiation therapy (as part of cancer treatment) might be a risk factor for cancer.
  • Hormone therapy: Women who are going through menopause might receive a prescription for hormone replacement therapy, either estrogen alone or in combination with progesterone. The use of both of these hormones together has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. A woman who still has her uterus and is taking estrogen alone (without progesterone) has a greater risk of endometrial cancer.

Cancer Symptoms

  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • A wart or mole that changes
  • An unusual lump anywhere in the body
  • A persistent cough/hoarseness
  • Indigestion or problems swallowing
  • Changes in bowel movement or urination habits
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge from various parts of the body

Diagnosis

If your doctor thinks you might have cancer, he or she will examine you and might order certain tests, including:

  • Blood and urine tests.
  • Imaging tests that allow the doctor to see the inside your body to see if cancer is present (Imaging tests include X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), radionuclide scanning, and ultrasonography.)
  • Biopsy, a procedure in which the doctor takes a small sample of the tumor and analyzes it under a microscope.
When to see your Doctor

If you believe you have any of the above cancer symptoms you should see your healthcare provider. For more information on cancer types and treatment at CareMount Medical, visit https://www.caremountmedical.com/care-and-services/oncology/

To make an appointment with our CareMount Medical cancer care team, call 1-844-484-3292, or book your appointment online.