How does cancer start and how does it spread?

VanderKooy_0408 colorContributor: Dr. Michael Vander Kooy

Cancer begins to grow when cells in your body start to grow rapidly out of control; we call these cells abnormal cells. As you can imagine, abnormal cells grow much different than normal cells. Instead of dying, abnormal cells continue to grow and form new cells, which are also abnormal. These abnormal cells grow and take over the normal body tissues, causing a cancer cell to form.

In most cases, a group of cancer cells assemble to form a mass lump – better known as a tumor. But cancer cells can also grow in the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. When cancer cells are carried through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, they will begin to replace normal tissue with abnormal cells and form tumors.

It is important to remember that not all tumors are cancerous. Abnormal masses that are not cancer are called benign tumors. These tumors can also cause major concerns because they grow and invade the space of other vital organs and tissues. When a benign tumor grows too large, it can press on and restrict healthy organs and tissue. The good news is that these tumors cannot spread because their cells do not enter the bloodstream.

Half of all men and one-third of all women in the Unites States will develop cancer sometime during their lifetimes. For most types of cancer, the sooner a cancer is found and treated, the better the chances are for treating it. Early detection is possible with screening exams.  According to Michael Vander Kooy, MD, a board-certified radiation oncologist at the Agnesian Cancer Center, it is important for individuals that do not have any symptoms to participate in cancer screening exams and tests.  Screening exams and tests are based on your age, gender and family history.  Only you and your doctor can determine which tests are right for you. Here is a list of some common screening tests:

Age 21

Women should begin cervical cancer screening

Age 40

Women should have annual mammograms

Age 50

Men and women should be screened for colon cancer with colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy

To learn more about the Agnesian Cancer Center, visit, or call (920) 926-4100.

About Agnesian HealthCare Cancer Care Services

Agnesian HealthCare Cancer Care Services brings cancer care closer to cancer patients. With offices in Fond du Lac, Ripon, and Waupun, there is no need to travel far to get the most advanced technology and treatment.

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