What is Cancer?
The term cancer covers more than a hundred diseases that share one trait: In all of the diseases, cells grow out of control and destroy healthy tissues. Cancer tissue, growing without limits, competes with normal tissue for nutrients, eventually killing normal cells by nutritional deprivation.
Cancerous tissue can also cause secondary effects, in which the expanding malignant growth puts pressure on surrounding tissue or organs or the cancer cells metastasize and invade other organs. The spread of cancer is called metastasis. It is this ability for malignant tumors to spread to other vital organs, and disturb their functioning, that makes cancer dangerous. A few cancers, such as blood cancers (leukemia), do not form a tumor.
Cancer is NOT contagious. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States.
Cancer is the Latin word for crab.
Are you at risk for Cancer?
Your risk for cancer depends on a number of factors, including your family medical history, your environment, your lifestyle, and choices.
The 1982 US Surgeon Generals Report states, "Cigarette smoking is the major single cause of cancer mortality in the United States." This statement is as true today as it was in 1982. (Information taken from the American Cancer Society.)
Remission of Cancer
Remission is a period of time when the cancer is responding to treatment or is under control. Remission can be partial or complete. When cancer is in complete remission, all the signs and symptoms of the disease disappear. Partial remission is when the cancer shrinks but does not completely disappear. Remissions can last anywhere from several weeks to many years. Complete remissions may continue for years and be considered cures. If cancer returns, another remission often can occur with further treatment.
Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgical removal of the cancer cells are the most common treatments for cancer.
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) is the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Depending on the stage of the cancer, treatment with radiation may be given alone or with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is local therapy; it affects cancer cells only in the treated area.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy usually consists of a combination of several drugs. It may be given alone or followed by radiation therapy.
Nutrition During Cancer Treatment
Eating well during cancer treatment means getting enough calories and protein to help prevent weight loss and regain strength. Good nutrition often helps people feel better and have more energy.
Some people with cancer find it hard to eat a balanced diet because they may lose their appetite. In addition, common side effects of treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, or mouth sores, can make eating difficult. Often, foods may taste different. Sometimes, people being treated for cancer may not feel like eating when they are uncomfortable or tired.
You might ask your physician to refer you to a dietitian, or nurse who is specialized in nutrition, who can work with you during your treatment and help adjust your diet should you experience side effects or weight changes.
A healthy diet is very important. Malnutrition is a major cause of illness and death in cancer patients.
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