In a healthy body, cells grow and divide in a controlled manner to create new cells. These cells, in turn, grow old and eventually die for new cells to take their place.
But sometimes, this process goes wrong. And when it goes wrong the consequences can be dire for the new cells grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner. This excess of cells soon becomes redundant in that they can no longer be used by the body. And when these old cells continue their uncontrolled growth pattern, a mass of abnormal cells are created.
This mass of cells is commonly known as a tumour, which can either be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
The cancer cells invade any nearby tissue and may spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.
Tumours which spread in this manner are known as advanced or metastatic cancers.
Most cancers are named for their place of origin – in other words, their starting point. For instance, if the cancer starts in the breast, then it is called breast cancer and if the cancer in the breast spreads to the lungs, the cancer is still a referred to as breast cancer.
It is important to understand that cancer is not one disease requiring one type of treatment. There are many different kinds of cancers. Each of these cancers may require a different form of treatment.