What is Cancer?


Whether a friend or family member has been affected by cancer or you’re a survivor yourself, “cancer” is a word we’re all familiar with. And though awareness of cancer and its risk factors have never been higher, myths and misconceptions about the disease are still spread.

Cancer Basics

Cancer is a broad term that’s used to describe more than 200 diseases involving the unhealthy division of cells. Because these cells divide abnormally or at a fast pace, they destroy any healthy tissue in their path.

Cancerous vs. Healthy Cells

The main difference between cancerous and healthy cells is their shape and growth. A collection of healthy cells will traditionally be the same size, color, and shape, whereas cancerous cells are drastically different sizes and shapes.

Healthy cells also recognize when they’re no longer needed, therefore they stop themselves from reproducing. The reason why cancer is such a deadly disease is because cancerous cells never know when to stop, so they multiply until they have taken over or damaged all other tissue in the area.

Common Cancers in America

Of the hundreds of cancers that exist in the world, only a handful are commonly found in America. Though researchers don’t know exactly why some cancers are more common in one area of the world than another, they believe it mainly comes down to cultural norms (tanning, the foods we eat, etc.), geography, and air quality.

In America, skin cancer, breast, lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer are some of the most commonly diagnosed, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia.

What Causes Cancer?

Though we don’t yet know exactly what causes cancer, our knowledge of its risk factors is always increasing. A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of a disease or illness. However, risk factors are not an exact science. It’s possible to have few risk factors for a disease and still be diagnosed with it, just like it’s possible to have several risk factors for a disease and never become sick.

Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself is to have as few cancer risk factors as possible. The most common and dangerous lifestyle risk factors are:

  • Unhealthy Diet: An unhealthy diet can negatively impact every aspect of your health and is a risk factor for most illnesses and diseases. Many studies show that a plant-based diet, high in fiber and protein can lower your risk of cancer and many other diseases.
  • Low Activity Level: As the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality, physical inactivity (also known as the sitting disease) has been declared a public health emergency.
  • Sun Exposure: More than 60% of skin cancers are the direct result of too much sun exposure.
  • High Tobacco Use: Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. It’s also a main risk factor for 80% of all other cancers.
  • High Alcohol Use: Alcohol use has been linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum, and breast. It’s also been known to increase your risk of pancreas and stomach cancer.

Early Detection

Determining that you have a cold isn’t difficult — your nose will be running, you’ll feel congested, and you might even have a bad cough. But how can you tell if cells are dividing abnormally within your body? Unfortunately, you can’t (without technology, that is).

Cancer often doesn’t present with any symptoms until it has spread to other parts of your body, and by that time it may be too late for treatment. This is why early detection is so important. With regular screenings, we can detect cancer in its earliest stage, before you’ve even noticed something is wrong. And though early detection doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome, it significantly increases your chances of long-term survival.

Early detection is a broad term for any measure taken to detect cancer in its earliest stage. Over the years, methods of early detection have only expanded and improved. Some of the most common forms of early detection are:

  • Visual skin exams, which are used to detect skin cancer.
  • Mammograms, which are used to detect breast cancer.
  • Pap tests, which are used to detect and prevent cervical cancer.
  • Colonoscopies, which are used to detect cancer in the large intestine (colon and rectum).

Oncology Services Offered at Beverly Oncology & Imaging

At Beverly Oncology & Imaging, our services include:

  • External Beam. By using energy (typically X-rays) to kill cancerous cells, external beam radiation therapy can efficiently shrink an existing tumor and prevent unhealthy cells from spreading.
  • Brachytherapy. Unlike external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy involves injecting radiation directly into a tumor using specially designed catheters.
  • Rotating Gamma Therapy. Rotating Gamma Therapy is one of the most advanced treatment methods for brain surgery currently on the market. This form of non-invasive brain surgery uses radioactive discs that circle and rotate around your head. What sets this technology apart from similar non-surgical methods is that we can control the level of radiation you’re exposed to — high doses of radiation will only be emitted when the tumor is detected.

Beverly Oncology & Imaging offers state-of-the-art medical technology with greater convenience than hospitals can offer. We are leaders in our field, using cutting-edge technology like Rotating Gamma Technology™, External Beam therapy, and brachytherapy. Contact us today to discuss treatment options or to make an appointment.

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