ThedaCare Health Matters By: P. Michael Shattuck, MD, Emergency Department phyisician
Years ago, I saw the expression “cancer sucks” on a T-shirt of a middle school boy I knew whose mother had passed away from breast cancer the year before. Although cancer deaths have declined for all cancers during the last two decades, cancer is the second leading cause of death behind heart disease and the leading cause of death in people younger than age 85. Cancer is defined as growth of tissue or cells that are out of control and invading into other tissues or organs. Normal cells and tissues stay within their boundaries and perform a certain function. Cells are programmed to develop into specific types of tissue by the DNA in their nucleus. If a defect develops in the DNA, the cell can transform into a cancerous cell. Cancerous tissue knows no boundaries and has the potential to spread sometimes locally and sometimes to tissues distant from where it originated.