About cancer

What is cancer?

Cancer is an abnormal, uncontrolled multiplication of cells. The mass of cancer cells eventually becomes large enough to produce lumps, masses, or tumors that can be detected, these abnormal growths can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), in which case they may grow into adjacent tissue and/or spread (metastasize) to distant parts of the body.


Cancer can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Presence of a new lump in the breast or any other part of the body
  • Presence of a new mole or a change in the appearance of an existing wart or mole
  • A sore or wound that does not heal
  • Nagging cough or hoarseness
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
  • Unexplained changes in weight
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge

Many other conditions have similar symptoms. Make sure you tell your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Types of cancer

Carcinomas - cancers that occur in epithelial surfaces - the cells that form the outer surface of the body to line or cover the body's cavities, tubes and passageways.
- cancers that form on a glandular surface, such as the lung, breast, prostate, ovary or kidney.
Sarcomas - cancers that occur in supporting structures, such as bone, muscle, cartilage, fat or fibrous tissue.
Leukemias and lymphomas - cancers that occur in blood cell elements.

Cancer diagnosis

Diagnostic procedures that may be requested include imaging tests include: 

Cancer grades and stages

After the determination is made as to the type of cancer, the cancer is graded from low to high - a measurement of how aggressive the tumor is. Once cancer is diagnosed, more tests will be done to find out if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This testing is called staging.


The following are the most common methods of treating the major types of cancer:

Advances in surgery, radiation and medical oncology often involve breakthrough technology. The Markey Cancer Center is committed to providing access to clinical trials to our patients.


It can be difficult to manage the emotional and physical side effects of cancer after diagnosis or treatment, especially if your child has cancer. Our Psych-Oncology Services staff are available to help our patients and their caregivers cope throughout their treatment. Visit the National Cancer Institute's Coping with Cancer website for answers on how to cope with fatigue, pain, anxiety and depression.

More than 100 different types of cancer exist and each type of cancer must be treated differently at different stages of disease. Markey Cancer Center's expert teams are committed to developing new and more advanced ways to fight cancer and utilizing breakthrough technology to maintain and improve patients' quality of life.

  Learn more about the cancer teams at Markey  

Page last updated: 1/25/2016 11:47:55 AM