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Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can be frightening and confusing. To help you and your family better understand the treatment options available to you, we have created this Web site to explain how radiation therapy is used to safely and effectively treat cancer.
The information on this site was created by physicians and other members of the radiation oncology team with expertise on the topic presented. However, this material is informational only and should not be used in place of advice from a medical professional. If you have questions about a specific treatment, please ask your radiation oncologist.
Adventist Health's Cancer Care Services brings you access to the most advanced treatment technologies and treatment options. Whether you are a newly diagnosed cancer patient, have had cancer in the past or just know a close friend with the disease, Adventist Health is here to assist you. We have many different resources at Adventist Medical Center to assist you and your family. We seek to provide a combination of compassionate care and the latest technological advances to provide you with the best opportunity for disease free living.
The Adventist Health cancer program has been accredited as a "Community Cancer Program" by the American College of Surgeons since its inception in the '80s. Our cancer care experts are part of a team from various specialties who work together to provide comprehensive care and serve the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of our patients.
Reducing Cancer Risks with Personal Choices
What is Cancer?
Cancer results when a cell within the body starts to divide and multiply in a way that is not consistent with the normal development of that cell type. Some cell development can be benign or non-threatening if the cellular growth is controlled and limited in development.
Malignant or cancerous growth occurs when normal cells revert to a more primitive developmental state and start to grow in an uncontrolled fashion within its original site. Tumors can arise from virtually all types of normal tissues. Usually the tumor cells will retain enough of the features of the original cell type to identify its origin.
Metastatic cancer occurs when cells from the original cancer site such as breast or lung cancer break off from the mass and are transferred to another part of the body. This transfer can occur through the blood stream, lymph nodes or direct seeding within a cavity such as the abdomen. These transferred cells can be trapped in the liver, brain and bone marrow and begin to grow there.
What Causes Cancer?
The cell changes that result in cancer development can occur from several sources:
- Hormonal changes in the body can be responsible the
majority of some cancers such as breast, uterine and prostate
cancers. Similarly, obesity can contribute to the occurrence of
these cancers due to the additional hormone levels stored in
excess body fat.
- Environmental factors such as chemical exposures, tobacco
and alcohol use and can irritate the tissues of the lungs,
mouth, esophagus and stomach. Many years of abuse can produce
cell changes that can result in cancer.
- Viruses can directly or indirectly contribute to
development of some cervical cancers, lymphomas and sarcomas.
- Genetic factors can play an important role in some cancers.
Any family history of cancer should be mentioned to your family
physician. He or she can then plan appropriate monitoring for
ongoing individual healthcare.
- Radiation Exposure- There are many sources of radiant
energy that can cause cancer including sunlight, artificial
sources of UV light, x-rays, radioactive elements, and nuclear
fission. Radiation exposure can create cell structure changes
that result in development of malignant cells. These cell
changes may be a direct result of the amount of exposure, with
persons receiving greater amounts having a higher probability
of disease. The most common cancer from this type of exposure
is skin cancer and melanoma. These cancers are common to people
who work outdoors or live in sunny areas without appropriate
How is Cancer Treated?
Cancer is treated through three primary methods:
- Surgery - surgery can be used in tumors that are confined
to a limited area. It is also very useful in obtaining accurate
information regarding the extent of disease and staging
information such tumor tissue for analysis and lymph node
- Radiation Therapy