Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide and grow uncontrollably in any part of the body. It is a very frequent disease due to the increase in the aging of the population and early detection systems. Cancer treatments are aimed at curing the disease or, in its absence, to chronify it. Blocking the genetic abnormality of the cancer cell or stimulating the patient's immune system are the main lines of cancer research.

What is Cancer?

Reading time: 2 min

Cancer explained in first person

Professionals and patients explain how you live with the disease
I am sure that the future will bring more medications, and procedures to treat the vast majority of disease cancers.
It is all bearable. The chemotherapy really is hard, but I thought it would be worse.

The term cancer encompasses a very large group of illnesses that are all characterised by abnormal cell growth; cancer cells divide and grow in an uncontrolled manner and in any part of the body.

Cells normally grow and divide to form new cells as, and when, the body requires them. When a normal cell ages or is damaged, it dies and is replaced by a new cell. In the case of cancer, however, the body loses control over this highly ordered process. As the cells become increasingly abnormal, the old or damaged cells survive instead of dying and new cells develop when they are not required. This uninterrupted cell division forms masses, otherwise known as tumours.

How does Cancer develop?

Cancer has its origin in the genes that are responsible for controlling the reproduction of cells. This genetic origin can be hereditary or due to changes that occur in the structure of genes throughout life, either spontaneously or due to the impact of environmental factors that affect the structure of genes.

Cancer cells differ from healthy ones by presenting molecular alterations that cause modifications in their normal functioning. That is, the normal process of cell growth and death is disrupted, causing uncontrolled cell division with an excess of cells that accumulate in the body and create tumors.

In the case of benign tumours, there is an increase in the number of cells, but they continue to have a normal structure and function.

Malignant tumours can spread to nearby tissues. Some cells can grow in neighbouring organs beyond where the initial tumour developed, spreading by means of blood vessels or the lymphatic system. This process is called metastasis.

Substantiated information by:

Albert Tuca Rodríguez
Aleix Prat Aparicio
Francesc Balaguer Prunes
Meritxell Mollà Armandà
Montserrat Valverde Bosch
Vanessa Vilas
Álvaro Urbano Ispizua

Published: 12 November 2018
Updated: 20 November 2018

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


Receive the latest updates related to this content.

Thank you for subscribing!

If this is the first time you subscribe you will receive a confirmation email, check your inbox

An error occurred and we were unable to send your data, please try again later.