Understanding Your Diagnosis
Cancer: An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, metastasize (spread).
Cancer is not one disease.
It is a group of more than 100 different and distinctive diseases.
What Causes Cancer Growth?
During the normal cell-division cycle, cells grow older, develop abnormal mutations and other types of damage, and eventually die. At this point, new cells are formed and the cell-division cycle continues. Cancer develops when old or damaged cells survive and multiply. The cells eventually grow out of control and crowd out normal cells. As the dividing cells spread into surrounding tissue, they often develop into tumors.
What Does Each Stage of Cancer Mean?
At stage 0, the first stage, the cancer is still located at its point of origin and has not spread to other tissues. At this stage, the cancer is often considered curable, usually by removing the tumor surgically. A stage 1 diagnosis usually indicates that a tumor is small and has not grown far into other tissues. Stages 2 and 3 refer to tumors and larger cancers that have grown deeper into neighboring tissues and moved into the lymph nodes. At this stage the cancer has not yet spread to the rest of the body. Stage 4 indicates that the cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body. Stage 4 is also referred to as “metastatic cancer”.
What is DNA?
DNA is a compound found in the nucleus of our cells. Without DNA, cells would be unable to function, reproduce, or replace worn-out cells. DNA passes genetic information to new cells, from one generation to the next, and provides the instructions for building proteins—large molecules that provide structural and functional support for all of the body’s organs.
How is DNA Relevant in Cancer Care?
When cells divide and multiply out of control, changes occur in DNA sequencing. These mistakes are then passed on to the next generation of cells. There are two major types of gene mutations associated with cancer. Inherited mutations occur during the reproduction process, and are therefore present in the body’s very first cell—also known as the zygote (the cell that eventually becomes the embryo.). Since all of the body’s cells are derived from the zygote, if there is an inherited mutation, the mutation is expressed in every cell of the body and can be passed on to the next generation. Acquired mutations are acquired throughout the course of a person’s life and are much more common than inherited mutations.
How Can I Use My DNA to Unlock Treatment Options?
Talk to your physician about getting a molecular profiling test. This test is useful for identifying mutations that make a patient eligible for participation in a specific clinical trial in which a targeted treatment is being tested. If you have not had a molecular profile test, you should consider the broadest test available. Having a broad molecular profiling test, with a targeted genomic sequence analysis and comprehensive DNA and RNA analysis empowers patients, providers, and researchers and can open the door to more clinical trial options.