What is Cancer?
Cancer is a diagnostic term describing illnesses that are caused by uncontrolled growth of malignant cells. Our bodies contain a wide array of cells, each of which contain twenty-three pairs of chromosomes. Cancer cells typically will have a number of genetic mutations in those chromosomes that alter their behavior. Once those cells have become malignant, they grow rapidly and have the potential to cause illness.
Tumors can be either benign or malignant. Benign tumors can generally be ignored because they typically do not cause disease. Malignant tumors are characterized by the ability to invade surrounding normal tissue and spread to other organs in the body. This spreading of cancer is called metastasis. Tumors will usually start in one organ. As the cancer advances, tumor cells spread (metastasize) through the blood or lymphatic system to other parts of the body.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
After being diagnosed with cancer, you will probably have many questions. It is often helpful to write your questions down prior to your appointment with your doctor. It is easy to forget your questions during an office visit so having a list of things you’d like to talk about could be helpful to make sure you get the most out of your visit. Having a family member or friend accompany you to visits to ask questions, take notes and listen to the information provided by your doctor can also be very helpful.
Some questions you may want to ask your doctor include:
- What type of cancer do I have?
- What is the stage of my cancer?
- What is my prognosis, as you view it?
- What treatment do you recommend? Why?
- What are the possible risks or side effects of treatment?
- How can I manage side effects of treatment?
- Are there other treatments for me to consider?
- What drugs will I take? What are they for?
- What symptoms should I report right away?