The words “you have cancer” are frightening and overwhelming. Some people experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness and don’t know whether they can deal with these feelings. It takes an emotional toll on the person diagnosed, as well as everyone close to that person.
Cancer begins in your cells, which are the building blocks of your body. Normally, your body forms new cells as you need them, replacing old cells that die. Sometimes this process goes wrong. New cells grow even when you don't need them, and old cells don't die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass called a tumor. Tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors aren't cancer while malignant ones are. Cells from malignant tumors can invade nearby tissues. They can also break away and spread to other parts of the body.
Most cancers are named for where they start. For example, lung cancer starts in the lung, and breast cancer starts in the breast. The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another is called metastasis. Symptoms and treatment depend on the cancer type and how advanced it is. Treatment plans may include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Though blood and urine tests can help give your doctor clues, other tests are usually necessary to make the diagnosis. For most forms of cancer, a biopsy — a procedure to obtain a sample of suspicious cells for testing — is usually necessary to make a definitive diagnosis.
In some cases, tumor marker levels are monitored over time. Your doctor may schedule follow-up testing in a few months. Cancer blood markers are most helpful after your cancer diagnosis. Your doctor may use these tests to determine whether your cancer is responding to treatment or whether your cancer is growing.
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