What is cancer? What causes cancer and how is it treated

What is cancer? What causes cancer and how is it treated


One out of every two men and one out of every
three women will be diagnosed with cancer. But despite those huge numbers most individuals
don’t know what that really means. At the simplest level, cancer or cancer cells
are cells that have lost the ability to follow the normal control that the body exerts on
all cells. In our body we have billions and billions of cells and they have different
functions. It’s a very complicated process under incredibly phenomenal control and if
something goes wrong and that control is lost and particular cells escape the normal control
mechanisms and they continue to grow and they may spread. That’s what we call cancer. Those cells together, we would call that a
tumor. Specifically cancer is a malignant tumor and we call it malignant because not
only can it invade into adjacent organs, but unfortunately cancer can spread to other tissues
and that can be life threatening. Cancer can actually occur anywhere in the
body because there are cells everywhere in the body. In women one of the most common
cancers of course is breast cancer and men prostate cancer. And in both men and women
lung cancer and colon cancer are common cancers. It’s important to understand that the cancer
that occurs in one individual is very different than the cancer that occurs in another, just
like those individuals are different. So a lung tumor in one person will be very different
from a lung tumor in another person. Once the diagnosis of cancer is made of course
the next obvious question is what do you do. There are several things that are really relevant.
The stage of the cancer, which is information about where is the cancer. You say it’s a
particular kind of cancer. How much cancer is present? Has it spread? Is it in lymphnodes?
Has it spread to other organs of the body? Cancer treatment actually is very complex
and part of the reason is because cancer is this constellation of over two hundred different
diseases. They have common characteristics but they’re all very different from each other.
In addition to that, the cancer itself is not homogeneous. There may be three or four
or five or six different slight variations in the cancer cells that are there. People
ask why? Why does my cancer not go away? It shrunk by seventy percent. What’s wrong with
the other thirty percent? Well it’s probably a different subtype of that cancer which is
going to require a different kind of treatment. There are three primary therapies for cancer.
Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Surgery works by directly removing the tumor. Radiation
therapy provides x-rays to kill individual cells and the chemotherapy provides chemicals
that can kill those individual cells. But they have side effects. The best therapies that we can produce really
are the result of optimizing the amount of tumor that we can kill by any treatment and
minimizing the amount of damage that we cause to the normal cells that would be affected
by that treatment. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America, we
have a very robust integrative oncology program. Integrative oncology is taking those conventional
oncology treatments and integrating those with therapies like acupuncture, naturopathic
medicine, chiropractic, nutrition. To blend those together and to create the most appropriate
treatment plan for that individual patient at that moment in time. Cancer Treatment Centers of America has invested
in a model in which all of the effects of cancer and its therapy are aggressively treated
and managed. It’s not just enough to kill the cancer, if we don’t treat the pain, the
fatigue, the depression, or the anxiety that comes with a diagnosis of cancer. Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can be a frightening
thing. The good news is that today is probably the most exciting time in history in terms
of the treatment of cancer. Options that didn’t exist a few months ago certainly didn’t exist
a few years ago, like the ability to genomically profile a tumor, and to take that individualized
fingerprint of that cancer may direct us to tailor treatment in very specific ways. We believe that in the future, many more
patients with a number of different tumor types will potentially be able to benefit from
the advances in precision medicine. There are very hopeful options that are available
to us as clinicians to make a difference in patients lives and it’s therefore just as
important for patients to know that, so they have those hopeful options and they take advantage
of them.