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July 23, 2019 - 1:46pm | 85°F

About Cancer

Cancer is a disease process that begins when a single cell becomes abnormal and unable to function properly. When a tumor is said to be malignant, or cancerous, the tumor cells harm surrounding cells, divide and grow without restrictions, and have the ability to spread to other areas of the body. Benign tumors are not considered to be cancerous. They are usually restricted and do not spread, yet have the potential to grow, or compress surrounding normal functioning cells. Some benign tumors may become malignant with time.


Genetic abnormalities affect a cell's ability to function and successfully complete it's cycle of growth. Environmental factors, called carcinogens, can result in genetic abnormalities, including prolonged exposure to radiation (as in Ultraviolet light from the sun), the use of tobacco products, prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers, heavy use of alcohol, and viral infections (HPV) .

In order to have a constant supply of new tissue, cells must make copies of themselves in a process called the cell cycle. During this process, the genetic material (DNA) is copied. One set of the copied DNA and other cell structures are passed on to the new cell during cell division. After the cell cycle and division are complete, one cell has become two. It is during this cell cycle that damage to DNA can occur. Even in normal functioning cells, mistakes happen but are corrected. If a mistake cannot be corrected, the cell is stopped from completing the cell cycle and dies. When a cell becomes older or exposed to environmental factors, mistakes in chromosomal division more likely to take place. These mistakes are called genetic abnormalities. Unable to correct itself, the cell becomes abnormal.


Although the risk of having cancer increases with age, it may develop at any age, affect either gender, all races, and does not spare any ethnic groups. While 10% of cancers are inherited, most are not.


The term carcinoma is used to describe malignant tumors that develop from epithelial cells. These cells form the surface lining of skin, internal organs and passages such as the digestive tract. Carcinomas are the most common cancers. Examples are breast cancer, prostate, lung, and colon cancer.

Sarcomas are malignant tumors derived from tissues such as fat, muscle, blood vessels, bone, tendons, and cartilage. Examples are liposarcoma, rhabdmyosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and glioma. 

Lymphoma is a malignant cancer develops in lymph glands. The two types are the solid cancers Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and Hodgkin's Lymphoma. More than thirty subtypes of these tumors are presently identified. 

Leukemia is a malignant cancer of bone marrow. It results in the production of immature white blood cells, while also suppressing the production of red blood cells causing anemia and problems with the clotting of blood. Leukemias may be slow or rapidly growing. Terms used in describing leukemia are Granulocytic (Myelogenous) and Lymphocytic. Leukemias may be preceded by a pre-leukemic state called Myelodysplasia. 

Myeloma is a malignant cancer that develops in plasma cells of the bone marrow. Plasma cells are important for the immune system because of the antibodies they produce. The most common symptom of Myeloma is bone pain and bacterial infections.

Importance of Screening

Screening can detect disease early in patients before they develop signs or symptoms. In order to save lives, screening must detect cancer before it spreads, since time is of the essence in the treatment of cancer. Early stages of cancer have more success eradicating disease. Though screening is a very important tool, it is not used to diagnose but rather to discover the presence of cancer. A diagnosis is made following a biopsy and pathology review. Free Cancer Screening at Feist Weiller Cancer Center.

Feist-Weiller Cancer Center • 1501 Kings Highway • Shreveport, LA 71103
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