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Understanding Cancer

Cancer is a medical condition that occurs when normal, healthy cells start growing abnormally, leading to what is called a growth or tumor. Tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). There are over 100 types of cancer. The most common types are breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.

Coping with the reality of a cancer diagnosis can be difficult, but with the help of your healthcare team you can make informed decisions. To assist in discussions with your healthcare team, consider additional sources of information such as www.cancer.gov and www.cancer.org.

Learning more about the process of fighting cancer can help you feel more at ease when your treatment begins. It is important that you have an understanding of what to expect during your chemotherapy. Ask your healthcare professionals questions about where and how often you'll receive chemotherapy, and how long your chemotherapy will last.

During your chemotherapy, you will most likely experience side effects. This happens when normal, healthy cells are affected along with the cancer cells. The normal, healthy cells most likely to be affected are blood cells forming in the bone marrow, cells in the digestive tract (mouth, stomach, intestines, and esophagus), reproductive system, and hair follicles.

Some of the common side effects of chemotherapy include tiredness; nausea and vomiting; pain; anemia; low platelet count possibly leading to bleeding, hair loss, or digestive problems; and infection resulting from a weakened immune system due to a low white blood cell count.