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What Is Cancer?

Normal human cells, which are the basic units of the body, grow, divide, and die in a predictable and orderly way. As our bodies grow and develop in childhood and adolescence, our cells divide rapidly. Once we become adults, most cells divide only to replace dying cells or repair injuries.

Cancer cells are different. Because of genetic mutations (changes) caused by exposure to cancer-causing agents such as too much sunlight, they continue to grow and divide, even when your body does not need new cells. As cancer cells grow and divide, they form a disorganized mass made of billions of cells called a growth or tumor. A tumor can be harmful (malignant) or harmless (benign) to your body. A malignant tumor is cancer.

Cancer cells can penetrate and damage adjacent organs and tissues, a process known as invasion. Cancer cells may also break away from a malignant tumor and spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. This is call metastasis.

Learn more about the types of cancer treated at the MVH Cancer Program.

Find additional cancer information at:

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