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What is cancer?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 12.7 million people around the world learn that they have cancer each year.

Cancer is defined as a class of diseases where malignant or abnormal cells divide uncontrollably, and form lumps or masses known as tumors. Tumors can grow and impact circulatory, digestive and nervous systems, and can release hormones that can affect body functions. In cancerous tumors, cells can break off the tumors, or metastasize, to invade and grow in different parts of the body. Tumors that remain in an isolated area of the body and show signs of limited growth are typically known as benign, or slightly abnormal. In cases of leukemia, cancer prevents normal blood function through abnormal cell division in the blood stream. Oncology is the medical practice of diagnosing and treating cancer.

The three most common cancers in men in the United States are:
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Colon Cancer

Types of cancer commonly reported in the United States include:
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Colon and Rectal Cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Endometrial Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Kidney (Renal Cell) Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Thyroid Cancer

Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. Side effects depend mainly on the type and extent of the treatment. Side effects may not be the same for each person, and they may change from one treatment session to the next. Before treatment starts, a healthcare team will explain possible side effects and suggest ways to help you manage them. This team may include physicians, nurses, a dietitian, a physical therapist, pharmacist, and others.

What causes cancer?

According to the National Cancer Institute, doctors often cannot explain why one person develops cancer and another does not. But research shows that certain risk factors increase the chance that a person will develop cancer.

These are the most common risk factors for cancer:
  • Growing Older
  • Tobacco
  • Sunlight
  • Ionizing Radiation
  • Certain Chemicals and Other Substances
  • Some Viruses and Bacteria
  • Certain Hormones
  • Family History of Cancer
  • Alcohol
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Poor Diet, Lack of Physical Activity, or Being Overweight

Many of these risk factors can be avoided. Others, such as family history, cannot be avoided. People can help protect themselves by staying away from known risk factors whenever possible.

How is cancer treated?

Treatment plans are unique to each person and depend mainly on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease.

The National Cancer Institute reports that doctors also consider the patient’s age and general health when creating a treatment plan. Often, the goal of treatment is to cure the cancer. In other cases, the goal is to control the disease or to reduce symptoms for as long as possible. The treatment plan may change over time.

Most treatment plans include surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Some involve hormone therapy or biological therapy. In addition, stem cell transplantation may be used so that a patient can receive very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Some cancers respond best to a single type of treatment. Others may respond best to a combination of treatments.

Treatments may work in a specific area (local therapy) or throughout the body (systemic therapy):
  • Local therapy removes or destroys cancer in just one part of the body. Surgery to remove a tumor is local therapy. Radiation to shrink or destroy a tumor also is usually local therapy.
  • Systemic therapy sends drugs or substances through the bloodstream to destroy cancer cells all over the body. It kills or slows the growth of cancer cells that may have spread beyond the original tumor. Chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy are usually systemic therapy.

How can a specialty pharmacy help?

Kroger Specialty Pharmacy sets a clear path to caring, compassionate cancer therapy management and support.

We are able to provide cancer patients, providers and partners with the necessary coordination of care vital to achieving successful treatment outcomes. By utilizing our expert patient care team comprised of Doctors of Pharmacy, registered pharmacists and nurses, reimbursement specialists and dedicated Patient Care Coordinators (PCCs), we are able to offer each and every patient and partner with high-quality, personalized care, ongoing patient evaluation and clinical support including frequent patient follow-up and continual education about their cancer treatment.

What are some support resources?