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Understanding Cancer

Written by: Sameen Junejo

April is Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month. This month is about raising awareness and showing support for people living with cancer and their loved ones. Here is some information to better understand cancer.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a group of diseases that cause cells in our bodies to grow abnormally. All cells carry instructions for when they should grow, divide and die. If these instructions are not followed, cells can grow out of control, or they do not die when they’re supposed to. As these abnormal cells continue to divide, they can develop into lumps called “tumours.” Not all tumours are cancerous (malignant). They can also be non-cancerous (benign). Non-cancerous tumours usually grow in just one place and, once removed, they are unlikely to grow back. Cancerous tumours, however, can grow into surrounding tissues and spread to other areas of the body (this is called “metastatic cancer”). If the cells have spread, cancer may still grow even after the tumour has been removed. There are more than 100 kinds of cancer. Some cancers affect the blood. These include leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

How common is cancer?

About two in five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime, and about one in four Canadians will die of cancer, according to the Canadian Cancer Society’s report Canadian Cancer Statistics 2016. Cancer can strike at any age, but it’s most common in people 50 and older. The lifetime probability of developing cancer is 42% (or a 1 in 2.4 chance) for females and 45% (or a 1 in 2.2 chance) for males. In Canada, cancer is the leading cause of death (30% of all deaths). The most common types of cancer (not including non-melanoma skin cancer) are lung, breast, colorectal and prostate. In 2016, these were expected to make up half of new cases of cancer. Although these figures seem bleak, the statistics yield positive news, too. Over the past three decades, the death rate for all cancers combined has decreased for both sexes. Over 60% of Canadians survive for at least five years after a cancer diagnosis (rates vary by cancer type). We have also learned a great deal about cancer, including ways to treat it, and how to support people with cancer and their caregivers. This is increasingly important as Canada’s population ages and more people are diagnosed with cancer.

How is cancer diagnosed?

Physicians use a variety of tests and procedures to diagnose cancer. If something is detected during a physical examination or screening test, or if a patient has a symptom that warrants further investigation, physicians may order lab tests (blood, urine, other body fluids), imaging tests (X-rays, CT scans, etc.), a biopsy (removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope) or other tests. If cancer is found, physicians determine its stage (how much it has progressed) and grade (how the cells look and behave). The criteria for staging and grading vary by cancer type. Knowing the stage and grade helps health care professionals plan treatment.

Join the fight against cancer today.

Here are some additional resources to learn more:

Canadian Cancer Society
Visit this website for up-to-date information about cancer and the support and services available in your province or territory.

CancerConnection.ca
This online community, run by the Canadian Cancer Society, provides a safe, welcoming forum for people with cancer and their family and friends.

Smokers’ Helpline
This free resource from the Canadian Cancer Society helps people quit smoking. For support, join the Online Quit Program, call 1-877-513-5333 or download booklets about quitting.

The Canadian Partnership against Cancer
The Canadian Partnership against Cancer is an independent organization funded by the federal government to accelerate action on cancer control for all Canadians. The Partnership works with cancer experts, charitable organizations, governments, cancer agencies, national health organizations, patients, survivors and others to implement Canada’s cancer control strategy.

Bayshore is pleased to provide information that educates you as you strive to care for your loved ones. This newsletter contains information about cancer. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. For more information on cancer, please consult your doctor.

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