What is Cancer ?

A Simple Explanation

It is important to answer the question: “What is cancer ?” to understand what exactly is going on in your body if you or a loved one is diagnosed with the disease. Contrary to what many people believe, cancer is not a single disease, there are more than 100 common types of cancer, ovarian cancer being one of them.
The different types of cancer can be grouped into different categories. The main ones include:

  • Sarcoma: cancer that originates in muscle, fibrous tissue, fat, bone, cartilage or other connective or supportive tissue.
  • Leukemia: cancer that originates in blood forming tissue such as the bone marrow or spleen. Large numbers of abnormal cells are produced which enter and circulate in the bloodstream.
  • Lymphoma: cancer that originates in cells of the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and nodes that acts as the body’s filter.
  • Carcinoma: cancer that originates in the body’s organs. They are the most common cancers. About 80% of cancers are carcinomas.
  • Central nervous system: cancer that originates in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.

Have you ever actually stopped and asked yourself “what is cancer?” Well, all cancers begin in cells, which are the body’s basic unit of life. All parts of the body, including organs, muscle, skin bone and blood are made up of cells. Cells constantly divide and multiply to replace old, damaged cells.

Normally, cells grow, divide and die in an orderly fashion. However, sometimes this process goes wrong. The DNA, or genetic material of a cell can become damaged or changed, and the cells can grow out of control, forming a mass of abnormal tissue, called a tumor.

In most cases tumors are benign, meaning they are not cancer, and usually aren’t life threatening. So you may ask yourself, “what is cancer then?” Malignant tumors are able to invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another is called metastasis.

Malignant tumors are cancer. However, it is important to note that not all cancers form solid tumors. For example, leukemia is a cancer of the blood where individual cells circulate within the bloodstream.