Understanding cancer, and how it develops in the body, is an extremely important topic. In fact, “what is cancer?” is one of the first topics Dr. Stegall addresses with his patients. When cancer is first diagnosed, the mind tends to quickly focus on the prognosis, the treatments, and the potential side effects. Many patients are in such a state of shock, to the point that they do not even remember details of this meeting.
By the time they are in our office, they have likely heard and read so much information – often conflicting information – that they are overwhelmed. All of these emotions and feelings are understandable. That is why Dr. Stegall likes to take a step back, define cancer, and discuss what it is and how it develops in the body.
Our discussion of cancer must focus on the cells of the body. Many people are surprised to hear that they have over 100 trillion cells. These cells work together to perform all of the functions needed for survival. These cells are uniquely specialized for their given function(s), but they are quite similar for the most part. They have an outer structure, called the cell membrane, which provides structure to the cell and also allows certain things to enter and leave the cell. The cells also have many important internal structures, such as the nucleus, which contain DNA – the cell’s genetic material. The mitochondria are also found inside the cell, and they are extremely important because they make ATP – the cell’s energy currency.