What Is Cancer

The Cancer Journey


Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that can arise from any part (organ) of the body. There are over 100 different types of cancers and each may behave differently from each other. Therefore it is very important to diagnose specifically which type of cancer we are dealing with to understand its nature and to apply the best form of treatment. 

How cancer begins

Cancer begins when the cells when the genetic information (DNA) with a normal cell experiences a mutation ie. a change of that genetic code. This causes the previously healthy cells to grow out of control and start invading other parts of the body. When the mutated cells multiply and form a visible lump that is called a tumour.

Types of cancer

There are four primary types of cancer, which doctors categorize based upon where the cancer originates. These categories are carcinoma, sarcoma, leukemia or lymphoma. 

Carcinomas are the most commonly found cancer. Beginning in the skin or surrounding tissue of the internal organs, carcinomas usually create solid tumours. Breast cancer is a common carcinoma.

sarcoma originates in the supporting tissue of the body such as muscles, blood vessels, fat tissue or bone.

Leukemia, known as the cancer of the blood. Acute lymphocytic leukemiachronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia are the four most common types of leukemia.

Lymphoma originates within the lymphatic system. This is the body’s defence system, in which vessels and glands work to fight off infection. Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are the two common types of lymphoma.

How cancer spreads/Metastasis

When a cancer grows, it can be carried throughout the body resulting in a spread of the disease. This happens when a cancerous tumour breaks off from its original tumour and uses the bloodstream or lymphatic system to travel to other parts of the body in a process known as metastasis.

Lymph nodes– the tiny organs that fight off the body’s infection – are often the first place a cancer will spread to. 

Where can cancer spread?

It is possible for cancer to spread throughout a person’s entire body; however, some cancers behave in a specific manner, for example prostate cancers like to spread to bones but rarely to liver or lungs. 

Other types of cancer such as breast or lung cancer can spread more widely to the liver, lungs, brain and bones. For different types of cancers, the oncologist needs to keep an eye on different parts of the body the cancer can spread to

Is metastasis the same cancer?

Metastasis is the same cancer as the original one, however it has spread to new areas of the body. This does not mean you have two different types of cancers.  Oncologists will base treatment on the primary cancer. For example if a lung cancer metastasizes to the liver, the treatment for both the liver and lung tumours is lung cancer treatment. Using liver cancer treatment for the tumour in the liver will not be effective