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Cancer is still one of the scariest words you can hear in a diagnosis. And chances are, you know someone who has heard it—almost 40 percent of adults are diagnosed with some form of it during their lifetime. Every patient’s story is different, and they don’t all have a happy ending. But because of decades of research into how cancer works, patients diagnosed with cancer today have a much better chance of survival than ever before.
There’s something big going on in oncology right now. It seems like every day a scientific paper is published highlighting a new treatment or discovery; new documentaries or feature articles come out every week. But it’s difficult to understand this excitement without a firm grasp of how the meaning of cancer has changed for doctors and researchers today. Experts’ understanding of what cancer is, how to diagnose and treat it, has matured in recent years—and some of the things you may have learned in the past may no longer be true.
Cancer isn’t just one disease—it’s actually hundreds of diseases. And these diseases don’t have much in common, except that they are caused by a genetic mutation that throws the cells’ normal process of growing and dying gets out of whack.
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