BACKGROUND: Cancer begins in your cells, which are the building blocks of your body. Normally, your body forms new cells as you need them, replacing old cells that die. Sometimes this process goes wrong. New cells grow even when you don't need them, and old cells don't die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass called a tumor. Tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors aren't cancer while malignant ones are. Cells from malignant tumors can invade nearby tissues. They can also break away and spread to other parts of the body. Most cancers are named for where they start. For example, lung cancer starts in the lung, and breast cancer starts in the breast. The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another is called metastasis. (Source: www.nlm.nih.gov)
TYPES/SIGNS: Symptoms and treatment depend on the cancer type and how advanced it is. Some of the most common types of cancer are prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, and colon and rectal cancer. To qualify as a common cancer on the National Cancer Institute’s list, the estimated annual incidence (how many estimated numbers of new cases) had to be 40,000 cases or more. (Source: www.cancer.gov)
BIOPSIES: A biopsy is when a small piece of tissue is removed for examination in a laboratory and is often used to determine if a tumor or mass is cancerous. Biopsies can be performed on various areas of the body and different organs. There are several different types of biopsy:
- Needle (Percutaneous) Biopsy – Removes tissue through a syringe and the doctor is usually guided by a CT scan or ultrasound as to the right location to take the tissue from.
- Open Biopsy – This is a surgical procedure where the doctor will make a cut in the affected area and remove the tissue. General or local anesthesia is used on the patient so they will not experience pain during the procedure.
- Closed Biopsy – This is also a surgical procedure but the cut made is typically smaller than that in the open biopsy, and a small camera-like instrument is inserted to help guide the surgeon to the right place to take a tissue sample. (Source: www.nlm.nih.gov)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center's Dr. Michel Kahaleh threads a tiny microscope into the narrow bile ducts that connect the liver to the small intestine to hunt for cancer. He also uses the device to minutely explore the pancreatic duct as one of a few doctors in the country to use such technology in this way. Using what’s called a confocal microscope, doctors can diagnose cancer cells while in the operating room, without the need for laboratory biopsies. Images taken inside the body can be magnified up to 1,000 times more than a traditional endoscope. These images are then sent to a computer where doctors can see each cell and diagnose their patients before they leave. So, there’s no more waiting weeks for results.