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About cancer

You may find it helps to learn a little about cancer. Cancer touches people of all ages, races, and incomes. At some time in their lives, everyone will talk with a person who has cancer. There are no rules to follow when talking with them, because each person and situation is different.

The word “cancer” itself is upsetting. It often makes people think about death. But death is not the outcome for many people with cancer. Almost 14 million people who have had cancer are alive in the US today. And more and more cancers are being found early—when they’re small and easier to treat. So the fear you might feel when you learn that someone you care about has cancer can and should be mixed with hope. Most cancers can be treated, and researchers are finding new and better ways to find and treat cancer every day.

Some people live with cancer for many years. This means they may have to adjust to different types of treatment at different stages of the disease. Family and friends must also adjust to these changes and give support and hope along the way.

In many cases, having cancer doesn’t mean there’s a clear beginning, middle, and end to the experience. There may be a beginning and an end to a treatment plan, and maybe a time when there is no sign of the cancer. But for some people, there may be a time when cancer returns. And sometimes treatment goes on for years just to keep the cancer under control—it never really goes away.

    Some people live many years with cancer. This means that they may have to adjust to different types of treatment at different stages of the disease.


Last Medical Review: 01/10/2013
Last Revised: 02/20/2014