What is Cancer?

To understand  cancer, we must first understand nor-mal functioning of the body. The body is made up of billions of cells. Each organ of the body is made up of several different types of specialized cells. For example, the liver has cells that filter toxins from the blood, and the brain has nerve cells (called neurons) that are able to conduct electrical signals. Perhaps the most familiar cells are skin cells. Every flake of dry skin is made of millions of cells that are constantly dying and being replaced with new cells. The growth of new cells is care-fully balanced to occur at the same rate as the death of old cells.

Your body has many mechanisms in place to regulate the timing of the birth and death of cells. Unfortunately, if one of these mechanisms malfunc-tions, the careful balance can be disrupted. Environ-mental toxins such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, and radiation can damage  DNA and can disrupt these control mechanisms. A tumor may develop when new cells are created faster than old cells die. Tumors can be either benign or malignant. A benign tumor is an overgrowth of cells that is unchecked by the body’s normal mechanisms; thus, it will keep getting bigger. It is called benign because it does not cause you illness.

Some benign tumors can get to be so large that they do cause problems, especially if they are in a confined space, such as your skull. A malignant tumor is also an overgrowth of cells. The tumor is considered malignant, however, because the cells are no longer confined to the tumor. Cells may spread from the main tumor through the blood and lymph system or grow directly into nearby structures. As the cells begin to grow unchecked in new organs, they gradually cause dysfunction all over the body and may eventually even cause death.