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What is Cancer?

Promotora training workersCancer is a group of disease that begins in the cells. Normal cells grown and divide to product more cells as needed and the older cells die off. When the process fails, new cells are formed that the body doesn’t need and the older ones do not die off as they should. The extra cells form a mass called a tumor or a bump.

The types of cancer are divided in categories according to the location of the body where the cancer first grows, not where it later appears. Some cancers do not form tumors, for example leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood.


Types of Tumors

  • Benign tumors do not grow in other parts of the body other than where they began
  • Frequently they can be removed through surgery and in the majority of cases they will not return
  • Most importantly benign tumors rarely cause death
  • Malignant tumors are cancer
  • The cells of cancerous tumors are abnormal and divide without control or order
  • Cancerous cells invade and destroy the surrounding tissue
  • Cancerous cells can metastasis or grow into other parts of the body via the blood and lymphatic systems
  • Metastasis is the expansion of cancer through the lymphatic system
Risk Factors

Risk Factors for Cancer

No Smoking Icon

Tobacco use is one of the main causes of death from cancer in the United States and is responsible for 30% of all deaths from cancer. To reduce the risk of developing cancer it is best to not start smoking or to quit if you already do smoke.

Tools to help people quit smoking

Consuming large quantities of alcohol can increase the risk of liver cancer among Hispanics/Latinos. It also increases the risk of many other types of cancer including oral, esophageal, laryngeal, large intestine, and breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that men drink no more then 2 drinks per day and that women drink no more than 1 drink per day.

Being overweight or obese can also increase the risk of developing cancer. It is important to maintain a healthy weight to reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases. To have and to maintain a healthy weight it is important to eat healthy meals and to exercise regularly.

The probability of getting cancer increases as people age. The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 60 years of age.

Your risk of getting breast cancer is greater if your mother, father, sister or daughter had breast or ovarian cancer. This risk is greater if someone in your family had cancer before the age of 50.

Types of Cancer

Most Common Types of Cancer


Signs to Watch Out For

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Fatigue

Screening and Diagnosis

Woman at doctor's officeMammogram

A mammogram is an x-ray image of the tissues inside the breast. Generally mammograms can detect a growth in the breast before it is large enough to be felt. Mammograms can also show a group of small calcifications, called microcalificiations which often indicate precancerous growths. If these are found it is necessary to further examine them to see if there are abnormal growths.

Patient education on mammograms

Mammograms are important because they diagnose early cancer in the breast before there are any symptoms. Women over the age of 40 should get a mammogram every year or every 2 years. Women under the age of 40 who have risk factors for cancer should talk to their doctor to see if they should get a regular mammogram.

Other types of screening or diagnosis


Most Common Types of Treatment for Cancer

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiology

What are common barriers that Hispanic patients with cancer face?

Hispanic patients with cancer may face barriers, some of which can be helped if there are good support systems set up for these patients. Some of the barriers are myths, fears and cultural traditions which may make people delay getting screening or treatment for cancer. These issues are worse if the patients do not have access to information and resources related to cancer. Some Hispanic patients have language barriers. A lack of health insurance can also be a significant barrier for many patients. For these patients it is especially important that they have access to free screening programs and good health education about risk factors.


Resources Available

There are many good resources available for people with cancer or people who want more information about preventing cancer. Here are a few types of resources: