Following are links to some basic information about important health issues facing today's families.


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Though there are many forms of cance. In its most basic form it is caused by an abnormal growth of cells. These cells are often shaped differently when compared to healthy cells and don't function the same. They can also spread from one part of the body to another, reproducing uncontrollably if their growth is not regulated and treated aggressively.

There are two basic types of tumors in the body: noncancerous and cancerous. Noncancerous tumors are often called benign, meaning they are growing slowly and won't spread readily. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are cancerous and can grow rapidly and spread through the body if left unchecked.

Cancers are usually named after the part of the body they originated in. If the cancer spreads, the name stays the same. Additionally, each cancer is described by its stage, which varies by the type of cancer you have. Staging identifies how much the cancer has spread.

Basic forms of cancer

Cancers are categorized in several ways. Following are the broadest categories for tissue and blood cancers:

Carcinoma: This cancer occurs in the epithelial tissue that lines or covers organs, glands or other body structures. Approximately 80% to 90% of all cancers are carcinomas.

Sarcoma: This is a malignant tumor that grows from connective tissue, including bones, fat and muscle.

Lymphoma: As you may have guessed, these cancers originate in the lymphatic system, which produces white blood cells and clean body fluids.

Leukemia: This is a cancer of the bone marrow that prevents it from producing normal red and white blood cells and platelets.

Myeloma: This type of cancer grows in the plasma cells of bone marrow. It can form either a single tumor or many.

Causes of cancer

Unfortunately, there's no single cause of cancer. It can be caused by multiple factors, including genetic and environmental characteristics.

In children, cancer often begins in the stem cells. As such, the cancer can be identified, treated and controlled more quickly. As such, the survival rate in children is 79%, compared to 64% for adults. Children also respond more quickly to aggressive forms of treatment.

Individuals can contract cancer through increased exposure or risk. These include:

Lifestyle: Certain habits such as smoking, a high fat diet or exposure to chemicals or UV radiation can all increase your risk of contracting cancer during your lifetime.

Genetics: You can have a higher likelihood of contracting cancer if your family has a history of cancer or you have certain genes that you have inherited. Just because the gene is present doesn't mean you will get cancer. Rather, it simply means that the chances are greater than if you don't.

Virus exposure: Exposure to certain viruses, such as HPV and HIV can increase the risk of getting certain types of cancer.

Environmental exposure: Certain pesticides, fertilizers and other materials or chemicals found in the environment can increase the likelihood you could contract cancer.


There are four basic methods used to treat cancer. The course of treatment depends on the type of cancer and staging. Options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapy.

Surgery: Surgery can be invasive or non-invasive, depending on the location and type of cancer. In most cases, the goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous region from the body. It is often used in combination with other procedures, particularly chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy: The use of special drugs can often eliminate the cancer cells. Unfortunately, chemotherapy can't treat a specific region. Instead, the whole body is affected by treatment, so often there are side effects such as hair loss and a sensitive stomach. Chemotherapy is most often given in pill or intravenous form, though there are other methods as well.

Radiation therapy: Radiation can be used to shrink tumors or eliminate cancer cells by damaging the cells' DNA. Radiation can be administered in a general region or used in a specific area. Unfortunately, healthy cells receive the same doses of radiation, so they can be damaged as well during treatment.

Targeted or biologic therapy: Finally, doctors may use drugs to attack certain aspects of the cancer. For example, certain medications can turn the blood supply off to the tumor, causing it to die for lack of nutrients. This type of therapy is used in conjunction with the other treatments listed above.

Adapted from materials provided by the National Institute of Neurological Orders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society








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