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Cancer refers to any one of a large number of diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. Cancer often has the ability to spread throughout your body.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the world. But survival rates are improving for many types of cancer, thanks to improvements in cancer screening, treatment and prevention.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms caused by cancer will vary depending on what part of the body is affected.

  • Fatigue
  • Lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin
  • Weight changes, including unintended loss or gain
  • Skin changes, such as yellowing, darkening, or redness of the skin, sores that won’t heal, or changes to existing moles
  • Changes in bowel, persistent indigestion
  • Persistent cough/trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent, unexplained muscle or joint pain

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that concern you.

Causes

Cancer is caused by changes (mutations) to the DNA within cells. The DNA inside a cell is packaged into a large number of individual genes, each of which contains a set of instructions telling the cell what functions to perform, as well as how to grow and divide. Errors in the instructions can cause the cell to stop its normal function and may allow a cell to become cancerous.

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