The body is made up of trillions of living cells. Normal body cells grow, divide into new cells, and die in an orderly way. Cancer begins when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control.
Cancer cell growth is different from normal cell growth. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new, abnormal cells. Cancer cells can also invade (grow into) other issues, something that normal cells cannot do. Growing out of control and invading other tissues are what makes a cell a cancer cell.
In most cases the cancer cells form a tumor. Some cancers, like leukemia, rarely form tumors. Instead, these cancer cells involve the blood and blood-forming organs and circulate through other tissues where they grow.
Cancer cells often travel to other parts of the body, where they begin to grow and form new tumors that replace normal tissue. This process is called metastasis. It happens when the cancer cells get into the bloodstream or lymph vessels of our body.
Not all tumors are cancerous. Tumors that are not cancerous are called Benign. Benign tumors can cause problems- they can grow very large and press on healthy organs and tissues. But they cannot grow into (invade) other issues. Because they can’t invade, they also can’t spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). These tumors are almost never life threatening.
American Cancer Society(2013) Breast Cancer. Atlanta: American Cancer Society.
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