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What is Cancer?

 

Cancer is not one disease, but many diseases that occur in different areas of the body. Each type of cancer is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells. Under normal conditions, cell reproduction is carefully controlled by the body. However, these controls can malfunction, resulting in abnormal cell growth and the development of a lump, mass, or tumor. Some cancers involving the blood and blood-forming organs do not form tumors but circulate through other tissues where they grow.

A tumor may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Cells from cancerous tumors can spread throughout the body. This process, called metastasis, occurs when cancer cells break away from the original tumor and travel in the circulatory or lymphatic systems until they are lodged in a small capillary network in another area of the body. Common locations of metastasis are the bones, lungs, liver, and central nervous system.

The type of cancer refers to the organ or area of the body where the cancer first occurred. Cancer that has metastasized to other areas of the body is named for the part of the body where it originated. For example, if breast cancer has spread to the bones, it is called “metastatic breast cancer” not bone cancer.

What are the most common form of cancer?

Cancer can occur anywhere in the body. In women, breast cancer is most common. In men, it’s prostate cancer. Lung cancer and colorectal cancer affect both men and women in high numbers.

There are five main categories of cancer:

  • Carcinomas begin in the skin or tissues that line the internal organs.

  • Sarcomas develop in the bone, cartilage, fat, muscle or other connective tissues.

  • Leukemia begins in the blood and bone marrow.

  • Lymphomas start in the immune system.

  • Brain and spinal cord cancers-Cancer that starts in the cells of the brain or spinal cord.

 

Each person's cancer diagnosis is as distinct as the person it affects. Part of our promise to you and your family is to offer clear information, powerful and thorough treatment options, all based on your individual needs.

Many cancer patients consider quantity and quality of life to be two of the most important statistics for cancer care, and they value a treatment experience that is as convenient and stress-free as possible. We are committed to educating patients and their families and we provide our cancer results in these areas to help you make more informed decisions for a longer, healthier life.

 

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells do not die and cells grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor. Some cancers, such as leukemia, do not form tumors.

Breast Cancer:

Breast cancer occurs in two broad categories: noninvasive and invasive.

  • Noninvasive (in situ) breast cancer: Cancerous cells remain in a particular location of the breast, without spreading to surrounding tissue, lobules or ducts.

  • Invasive (infiltrating) breast cancer: Cancerous cells break through normal breast tissue barriers and spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymph nodes.

 

Breast cancer is also classified based on where in the breast the disease started (e.g., milk ducts, lobules), how the disease grows, and other factors. The tabs on the left provide an overview of some common types of breast cancer.

Some other types of breast cancer include, but are not limited to: Paget's disease of the nipple, sarcoma of the breast, medullary carcinoma, tubular carcinoma, mucinous carcinoma, metaplastic carcinoma, adenocystic carcinoma, phyllodes tumor and angiosarcoma.

Your doctor determines your breast cancer treatment options based on your type of breast cancer, its stage and grade, whether the cancer cells are sensitive to hormones, your overall health and your own preferences. Most women undergo surgery for breast cancer and also receive additional treatment, such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy or radiation.

There are many options for breast cancer treatment, and you may feel overwhelmed as you make complex decisions about your treatment. Consider seeking a second opinion from a breast specialist in a breast center or clinic. Talk to other women who have faced the same decision. Then together, we develop a comprehensive breast cancer treatment plan that works for you. Your individualized plan will include advanced medical treatments and technologies, combined with integrative oncology services to help reduce side effects and keep you strong in body, mind and spirit.

Male breast cancer:

Male breast cancer occurs when malignant cells form in the tissues of the breast. Any man can develop breast cancer, but it is most common among men who are 60 – 70 years of age. About one percent of all breast cancers occur in men. About 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer annually, with about 450 deaths due to male breast cancer occurring each year.

Many men may be surprised to learn that they can get breast cancer. Men have breast tissue that develops in the same way as breast tissue in women, and is susceptible to cancer cells in the same way. In girls, hormonal changes at puberty cause female breasts to grow. In boys, hormones made by the testicles prevent the breasts from growing. Breast cancer in men is uncommon because male breasts have ducts that are less developed and are not exposed to growth-promoting female hormones.

Just like in women, breast cancer in men can begin in the ducts and spread into surrounding cells. More rarely, men can develop inflammatory breast cancer or Paget’s disease of the nipple, which happens when a tumor that began in a duct beneath the nipple moves to the surface. Male breasts have few if any lobules, and so lobular carcinoma rarely, if ever, occurs in men.

Men should also be aware of gynecomastia, the most common male breast disorder. Gynecomastia is not a form of cancer, but does cause a growth under the nipple or areola that can be felt, and sometimes seen. Gynecomastia is common in teenage boys due to hormonal changes during adolescence, and in older men, due to late-life hormonal shifts. Certain medications can cause gynecomastia, as can some conditions, such as Klinefelter syndrome. Rarely, gynecomastia is due to a tumor. Any such lumps should be examined by your doctor.

Male breast cancer treatment typically consists of mastectomy, followed by radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy. Since many male breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive, the drug tamoxifen is often a standard therapy for male breast cancer.

For men whose cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, adjuvant therapy (therapy given after surgery) is generally the same as for a woman with breast cancer. For men whose cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy plus tamoxifen and/or other hormone therapy. Treatment for men with cancer that has spread to other parts of the body may include hormone therapy and/or chemotherapy.

 

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in a man's prostate — a small walnut-shaped gland that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer that is detected early — when it's still confined to the prostate gland — has a better chance of successful treatment

Bladder Cancer

Every bladder cancer is different and requires a personalized approach. Your bladder cancer team develops a treatment plan tailored to your needs, using the latest diagnostic tools and treatment technology to target even the most advanced bladder cancers.

Lung Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These types are diagnosed based on how the cells look under a microscope. 

Colorectal Cancer

Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they're often referred to as colorectal cancers.

Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time some of these polyps become colon cancers.

Polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms. For this reason, doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying polyps before they become colon cancer.

How did I get cancer?

Although every patient and family member wants to know the answer to this question, the reason people develop cancer is not well understood. There are some known carcinogens (materials that can cause cancer), but many are still undiscovered. We do not know why some people who are exposed to carcinogens get cancer and others do not. The length and amount of exposure are believed to affect the chances of developing a disease. For example, as exposure to cigarette smoking increases, the chance of developing lung cancer also increases. Genetics also plays an important role in whether an individual develops cancer. For example, certain types of breast cancer have a genetic component.

Whats next?

Following your diagnosis of cancer, your reaction may be one of shock and disbelief.  If you have been told that chemotherapy or radiation therapy are an important part of your treatment, many unpleasant images may come to mind. But as you move beyond that initial shock to begin the journey of surviving your cancer, you have many good reasons to be optimistic. Medicine has made—and continues to make—great strides in treating cancer and in making cancer treatment more tolerable, both physically and emotionally.

No one would call cancer a normal experience, but by proactively managing aspects of your treatment, you can maintain a sense of normalcy in your life.  Fighting cancer is not a challenge you face alone. It’s a team effort that involves family, friends, and your healthcare team. Don’t overlook the strength that can come from having your support network by your side. Learn about your cancer and talk to others that have gone experienced your situation; www.CancerConnect.com is a network of cancer patients and their caregivers that provides support, hope, inspiration, and information.

 

Our physicians are specialists in the treatment and prevention of cancer and blood disorders.

 

Medical Oncology is the field of medicine which specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Cancer is treated in numerous ways: chemotherapy; immunotherapy; surgery; radiation therapy; along with new therapies that are continuously evolving. Our physicians are experts in prescribing and the supervision of chemotherapy and immunotherapy administration. Chemotherapy or biological therapy is defined as any medication which is given either by mouth, injection or intravenously to kill or stop the formation of cancer cells.

 

Hematology is the field of medicine which specializes in blood disorders. These problems include the leukemias, anemias, bleeding disorders, excessive clotting of the blood and others.  Each patient is unique in their age, medical history, and family history – all factors that must be taken into consideration when treatment options are explored by your physician.

 

All your questions are important and deserve an answer. Write down your questions and bring them with you to your appointment; we can then gather information that will help you research your disease, learn more about treatment options, assemble nutritional information, and identify reliable resources for current information about the treatment and cure of cancer. 

 

We understand you may be feeling overwhelmed with questions and concerns about your condition and what it all means. We're here to help guide you through the process.

How is cancer treated?

Treatment options depend on the type of cancer, its stage, if the cancer has spread and your general health. The goal of treatment is to kill as many cancerous cells while minimizing damage to normal cells nearby. Advances in technology make this possible.