Banner Health Services  

Frequently Asked Questions
About Cancer


What is cancer?

Answer: The human body is made up of millions of cells that divide daily. Sometimes these cells begin to grow abnormally and out of control.

Since these cells grow from our bodies, they are not always recognized as foreign objects and therefore escape our body's defense systems. As these cells grow they can interfere with the function of our normal cells. It is this interference that makes people with cancer sick. If a person’s body has too many cancer cells and not enough regular cells, he or she can die.

How do you get cancer?

Answer: No one really knows how or why some individuals get cancer and others do not. Even people who research cancer are not sure. They do know, however, that some factors may contribute to people getting sick. Genetics, environment, stress, and unhealthy habits like smoking are potential risk factors.
Genetics refers to the genes in our bodies that may want to produce cells that will grow into cancer. Only a few cancers are known to be genetic.

Environmental factors that may lead to cancer can include the many chemicals we live and work around. Some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer; therefore we as a society have made an effort to stop using them. Chemicals serve many important functions, however, such as helping crops grow healthy, keeping food safe, running our cars. It is impossible to get rid of all of chemicals, so we choose to live with some amount of risk.
Stress may cause cells to grow abnormally by changing the way the chemicals inside our bodies work. We're not sure about all of the relationships between our feelings and our bodies, but it is commonly believed that people under extreme amounts of stress get sick more often.
Smoking has been related to many types of cancers including lung, neck and mouth cancer. Scientists are looking at other things we do, like the foods we eat, to see if other such habits affect whether or not we get cancer.

What can I do to avoid getting cancer?

Answer: Like a cold or the flu, you cannot guarantee that you will not get cancer. However, you can reduce your chances by avoiding things and activities that are known to cause cancer. 

  • Avoid using cigarettes, cigars or smokeless tobacco 
  • Avoid drinking alcohol 
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables 
  • Always apply sunscreen when outdoors

Why do people lose their hair during chemotherapy?

Answer: Chemotherapy kills fast-growing cells. Your hair, like the lining of your mouth, is comprised of fast-growing cells. So, when chemotherapy kills your fast-growing cancer cells, it also kills your fast-growing hair cells causing your hair to fall out. Your hair will grow back when chemotherapy treatments stop. 

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