What Is Cancer?

The word cancer refers to a group of almost 200 different diseases that all start when some of the body's cells become abnormal, growing and multiplying very quickly. Normally, cells grow and divide to produce more cells only when the body needs them. But sometimes cells keep dividing when new cells are not needed. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a growth or tumor. A tumor may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Unlike normal cells, cancer cells multiply without any control. They don't self-destruct or die when they become worn out or damaged. Cancer cells crowd out healthy cells and prevent them from doing their jobs. They can also invade surrounding tissue or spread to distant areas of the body to create new tumors, a process called metastasis.

Read more about cancer types and topics.

Cancer has no single cause. Usually we cannot know the exact cause of a cancer. The body contains millions of cells. Each cell contains DNA made up of thousands of genes that determine what the cell is supposed to do. Scientists have found that when certain genes are abnormal or become damaged, the cell may become cancerous.

Scientists have identified some factors that increase the risk of cancer, including chemicals in cigarette smoke and radiation from the sun. But there's no way to know exactly what factors were involved in starting anyone's cancer. We do know that cancer is not contagious (you can't catch it from someone else). There is currently no evidence that high levels of stress or anxiety cause cancer.

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For most cancers, a biopsy is the only way to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor removes a sample of abnormal cells or tissue from the tumor. Then a pathologist (a doctor with special training in studying normal and diseased body tissues) views it under a microscope. Pathologists can determine if the tumor is cancer. If it is cancer, they identify the type of cancer and how quickly it is growing.

Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they begin, not necessarily the organ in which the tumor is found. For example, when a cancer starts in the breast and spreads to the brain and forms a tumor there, it is called breast cancer that has metastasized (spread) to the brain. It is not called brain cancer.

When cancer cells metastasize, lymph nodes are often one of the first areas to which they spread. Removing lymph nodes is a way to determine how likely it is that cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.

Your doctor will use the information from the pathology report and from other tests to determine the stage of your cancer. The stage of the cancer tells how much cancer is in your body and where it is located.

Read more about cancer types and topics.

Neeraj Agarwal, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0250

Specialties: Genitourinary Cancers, Oncology, Urologic Oncology

Wallace L. Akerley, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 213-4266

Specialties: Lung Cancer, Medical Oncology, Metastatic Disease, Oncology

Robert Hans Ingemar Andtbacka, M.D., C.M.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 587-8808

Specialties: Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors, Melanoma Surgery, Melanoma and Cutaneous Oncology, Oncology, Oncology Surgery, Sarcoma, Soft Tissue Sarcoma Surgery, Soft Tissue Sarcomas, Surgery, General

Chanteel A. Ballard, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0250

Specialties: Breast Cancer, Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Meredith S. Bannon, PA-C

Specialties: Oncology, Physician Assistant

Julia A. Batten, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0250

Specialties: Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Bernadette J. Bittner, APRN

Specialties: Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Annie Budhathoki, M.S., LAc

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 587-4585

Specialties: Acupuncture, Oncology, Oriental Medicine, Pain Medicine & Palliative Care

Saundra S. Buys, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 213-4269

Specialties: Breast Cancer, Oncology

Laura J. Cannon, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 587-4398

Specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Amie Clark, APRN, FNP

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-6906
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 587-4630

Specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner, Hematology/BMT, Oncology

Adam L. Cohen, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 213-4269
Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 585-0260

Specialties: Brain Tumors, Breast Cancer, Gynecologic Oncology, Neuro-Oncology, Oncology, Spinal Cord Tumors

Joan Collett, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 213-4266

Specialties: Oncology

Sarah V. Colonna, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0303

Specialties: Oncology

Rosemary Conder, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 213-4269

Specialties: Breast Cancer, Family Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Cynthia Davidson, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 587-4358

Specialties: Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

William A. Dunson, Jr., M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 587-4251

Specialties: Internal Medicine, General, Oncology

Emily I. Erickson, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 587-4398

Specialties: Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Ignacio Garrido-Laguna, M.D., Ph.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 213-4266
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0193

Specialties: Biliary Cancer, Colon Cancer, Oncology, Pancreatic Cancer

Glynn Gilcrease III, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 587-4358

Specialties: Oncology

Martha J. Glenn, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0100
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-6906

Specialties: Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, Hematology/BMT, Hodgkin Lymphoma, Leukemia, Lymphomas, Lymphoproliferative Diseases, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Oncology

Erin Goodfellow, PA-C

Specialties: Critical Care, Oncology, Physician Assistant, Pulmonary

Kenneth F. Grossmann, M.D., Ph.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 585-0206

Specialties: Oncology

Esther L. Kannapel, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0250

Specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Hung T. Khong, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 213-4269
Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 585-0206
Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 585-0209

Specialties: Oncology

Kristin E. Knopf, APRN

Specialties: Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Patricia Legant, M.D., Ph.D.

Locations
South Jordan Health Center (801) 213-4319

Specialties: Breast Cancer, Colon and Rectal Cancer, Esophagus and Stomach Cancers, Oncology, Ovarian Cancer

Brighton Loveday, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0250

Specialties: Nurse Practitioner, Oncology, Pain Medicine & Palliative Care

Julie Bylund Luckart, FNP, APRN, M.S.N.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 213-4266

Specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner, Lung Cancer, Oncology

Carolyn Luckett, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 585-0206

Specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Cheryl McGovern, PA-C

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 587-4448

Specialties: Oncology, Physician Assistant

Grace A. Noda, P.A.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 587-4398

Specialties: Oncology, Physician Assistant

Nicole G. Orgain, PA-C, M.P.A.S.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 585-0262

Specialties: Oncology, Physician Assistant

Josef T. Prchal, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-6906
Veterans Administration Medical Center (801) 582-1565

Specialties: Anemia, Hematology/BMT, Myeloproliferative Disorders, Oncology, Thrombocythemia

Robert A. Serpico, PA-C

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 585-5418

Specialties: Oncology, Physician Assistant

Paul J. Shami, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0100

Specialties: Hematology/BMT, Leukemia, Myelodysplasia, Oncology

Sunil Sharma, M.B.A., M.D., FACP

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 213-4266

Specialties: Clinical Scientist, Colon Cancer, Liver Cancer, Oncology, Pancreatic Cancer

Sean P. Strope, M.P.A.S.

Specialties: Brain Tumors, Oncology, Physician Assistant

Brittany A. Thomas, PA-C

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 587-8808

Specialties: Oncology, Physician Assistant

Jared Thorley, APRN, M.S.N., FNP, BSN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0250

Specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Joan K. Van Atta, APRN

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0100

Specialties: Nurse Practitioner, Oncology

Junfeng Wang, B.Med.Sci., Dr. med.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0250

Specialties: Oncology

John H. Ward, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 213-4269

Specialties: Breast Cancer, Oncology

John R. Weis, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 585-0262

Specialties: Colon Cancer, Oncology, Pancreatic Cancer

Theresa L. Werner, M.D.

Locations
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0250

Specialties: Breast Cancer, Gynecologic Oncology, Medical Oncology, Oncology