Cancer - Portneuf Medical Center


Our bodies are made up of millions of cells. Grouped together they form tissues and organs such as muscle, bone, the brain and liver. Cells contain coded instructions called genes that are used for creating new cells and programming how they behave. We are continuously dividing healthy cells to replace old or damaged cells at a naturally efficient, methodical pace. The process of cells dividing and passing along genes is usually well controlled, ensuring that the right kinds and numbers of cells are present for the different parts of the body to function correctly. But changes in the genetic information (called mutations) within the cell can lead to uncontainable cell division referred to as Cancer.

While it is known that cells become cancerous due to the accumulation of defects or mutations in their DNA and certain inherited genetic traits, ultimately, what causes the genes in cells to change isn’t fully understood.

Cancer cells make new cells that aren’t needed and they don’t die quickly when old or damaged. They often grow faster and live longer than healthy, normal cells. As a result, the mutated cells can replace normal cells at a faster rate than the human body can repair or replace them. These cell mutations can form lumps or tumors, and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. This spreading process is called metastasis.

Tumors that do not have the ability to spread throughout the body may be referred to as "benign" and are not thought of as cancerous. Tumors that have the ability to grow into other tissues or spread to distant parts of the body are referred to as "malignant."

The presence of cancer can be detected in numerous ways. Regular wellness checks that include preemptive screenings such as mammograms, prostate exams and colonoscopies can result in early detection and significantly higher treatment options leading to higher rates of success.

Cancer staging is the process of determining how advanced the cancer is and where it is located. It is based on whether the cancer is invasive or non-invasive, the size of the tumor, how many lymph nodes are involved, and if it has spread to other parts of the body. Understanding the stage of the cancer helps doctors develop a prognosis, design a treatment plan for the patient, and identify clinical trials that may be appropriate for that particular patient.

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Physical symptoms of cancer depend on multiple factors like its location, how advanced it is, and how much it affects surrounding organs or tissues. If a cancer has metastasized, the symptoms may appear in different parts of the body rather than where it began. There are commonly shared symptoms like fever, fatigue, or weight loss that many cancer patients experience, but the majority of signs or symptoms are specific to the areas where the cancer resides and the effects it has on the organs nearby.

If you have questions or concerns, we encourage you to visit your physician or contact the Portneuf Cancer Center at (208) 239-1750.

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