So, what the heck is cancer anyway?

First, cancer refers to many different diseases that are all referred to as cancer. Though different in terms of treatment and recovery, all cancers have some things in common. Here’s what the American Cancer Society says about cancer:

Cancer develops when cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control.

Normal body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. Because cancer cells continue to grow and divide, they are different from normal cells. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and continue to form new abnormal cells.

Essentially, something goes haywire in the DNA of your cells, sometimes for no known reason, and the malignant (cancerous) cells crowd out your good cells. The goal of your treatment, of course, is to destroy the bad cells to make room for healthy, good cells. Although there is a lot we do not know about cancer, there are some things we do know:

1. Some cancers are caused by inherited or genetic factors. Others are caused by certain triggers like smoking (increases chances of lung cancer) and too much sun (may cause skin cancer). Most teen cancers have no known genetic cause or trigger. 2. Cancer is not contagious. You cannot catch cancer from anyone else or spread it to another person. Tell your friends not to worry – you’re not contagious. 3. Most cancers can be treated and many teens with cancer get better and lead long, normal lives. Don’t believe us? Read these stories about teens just like you.

See the pie chart at the bottom of the page? It shows what percentage of all teens ages 15 – 19 have your kind of cancer. It might help to know that you’re not alone. child_cancers_graph