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    Head & Neck Surgery

    The Brooklyn Hospital Center's Division of Head and Neck Surgery manages the diagnosis and surgical treatment of benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck. Staffed by a team of highly capable sur ...

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    Otolaryngology (ENT)

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    Plastic Surgery

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    Cancer Care

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Cancer

Definition

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancerous cells are also called malignant cells.

Alternative Names

Carcinoma; Malignant tumor

Causes

Cancer grows out of cells in the body. Normal cells multiply when the body needs them, and die when they are damaged or the body doesn't need them.

Cancer appears to occur when the genetic material of a cell becomes changed. This results in cells growing out of control. Cells divide too quickly and do not die in a normal way.

There are many kinds of cancer. Cancer can develop in almost any organ or tissue, such as the lung, colon, breast, skin, bones, or nerve tissue.

There are many risk factors for cancer, including:

The cause of many cancers remains unknown.

The most common cause of cancer-related death is lung cancer.

In the U.S., skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer.

In U.S. men, other than skin cancer the three most common cancers are:

In U.S. women, other than skin cancer the three most common cancers are:

Some cancers are more common in certain parts of the world. For example, in Japan, there are many cases of stomach cancer. But in the United States, this type of cancer is less common. Differences in diet or environmental factors may play a role.

Some other types of cancer include:

Symptoms

Symptoms of cancer depend on the type and location of the cancer. For example, lung cancer can cause coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Colon cancer often causes diarrhea, constipation, and blood in the stool.

Some cancers may not have any symptoms. In certain cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, symptoms often do not start until the disease has reached an advanced stage.

The following symptoms may occur with cancer:

Exams and Tests

Like symptoms, the signs of cancer vary based on the type and location of the tumor. Common tests include the following:

Most cancers are diagnosed by biopsy. Depending on the location of the tumor, the biopsy may be a simple procedure or a serious operation. Most patients with cancer have CT scans to determine the exact location and size of the tumor or tumors.

A cancer diagnosis is often difficult to cope with. It is important that you discuss the type, size, and location of the cancer with your health care provider when you are diagnosed. You also will want to ask about treatment options, along with their benefits and risks.

It's a good idea to have someone with you at the provider's office to help you get through the diagnosis. If you have trouble asking questions after hearing about your diagnosis, the person you bring with you can ask them for you.

Treatment

Treatment varies based on the type of cancer and its stage. The stage of a cancer refers to how much it has grown and whether the tumor has spread from its original location.

Although treatment for cancer can be difficult, there are many ways to keep up your strength.

If you have radiation treatment:

If you have chemotherapy:

Talk with family, friends, or a support group about your feelings. Work with your health care providers throughout your treatment. Helping yourself can make you feel more in control.

Support Groups

The diagnosis and treatment of cancer often causes a lot of anxiety and can affect a person's entire life. There are many resources for cancer patients.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook depends on the type of cancer and the stage of the cancer when diagnosed.  

Some cancers can be cured. Other cancers that are not curable can still be treated effectively. Some patients can live for many years with cancer. Other tumors are quickly life threatening.

Possible Complications

Complications depend on the type and stage of cancer. The cancer may spread.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if you develop symptoms of cancer.

Prevention

You can reduce the risk of getting a cancerous (malignant) tumor by:

Cancer screenings, such as mammography and breast examination for breast cancer and colonoscopy for colon cancer, may help catch these cancers at their early stages when they are most treatable. Some people at high risk for developing certain cancers can take medication to reduce their risk.

References

National Cancer Institute. Chemotherapy and you: support for people who have cancer. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemotherapy-and-you. Accessed January 8, 2015.

National Cancer Institute. Radiation therapy and you: support for people who have cancer. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/radiation-therapy-and-you. Accessed January 8, 2015.

Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014.

Perry MC. Approach to the patient with cancer. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 182.

Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2015. CA Cancer J Clin. 2015;65:5-29.



Review Date: 1/18/2015
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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  1. Medical Service

    Orthopaedic Services

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    Podiatry

    The Division of Podiatry offers high-quality, state-of-the-art therapies to treat a wide range of foot and ankle disorders. Conditions Treated at The Brooklyn Hospital Center ingrown toenails ankle sprains ...

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    Geriatrics

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  7. Simulation Center

    TBHC has developed a multimillion dollar, state-of-the-art Simulation Facility where residents receive training on laparoscopy, intubation, central line placement, code simulations and obstetric deliveries.   ...

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    Healthy Back 2 School Fair!

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    Saturday in the Park! Annual health fair in Fort Greene Park helps us keep Brooklyn healthy.

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    Saturday In The Park-- TBHC Health Fair Emphasizes Wellness and Prevention

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