- More than one million people in the United States get cancer each year. Whether you have cancer or are close to someone who does, understanding what to expect can help you cope.
- Cancer is the general name for a group of more than 100 diseases characterized bu the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue.
- Many cancer deaths could be prevented by making healthy choices like getting recommended screening tests, not smoking, staying at a healthy weight, eating right, and keeping active.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is the general name for a group of more than 100 diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. Untreated cancers can cause serious illness and death.
How Cancers Differ:
Different types of cancer can behave very differently. For instance, lung cancer and skin cancer are very different diseases. They grow at different rates and respond to different treatments. This is why people with cancer need treatment that’s aimed at their kind of cancer.
Tumors That Are Not Cancer (benign):
A tumor is an abnormal lump or collection of cells, but not all tumors are cancer. Tumors that aren’t cancer are called benign. Benign tumors can cause problems – they can grow very large and press on healthy organs and tissues. But they can’t grow into (invade) other tissues. And they can’t spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). These tumors are seldom life threatening.
A tumor is an abnormal lump or collection of cells, but not all tumors are cancer.
Tumors that aren’t cancer are called benign. Benign tumors can cause problems – they can grow very large and press on healthy organs and tissues. But they can’t grow into (invade) other tissues. And they can’t spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). These tumors are seldom life threatening.
How Cancer Spreads
The process of cancer spreading is called metastasis.
Cancer cells often travel to other parts of the body where they can grow and form new tumors that crowd out normal tissue. This happens when the cancer cells get into the body’s bloodstream or lymph vessels.
No matter where a cancer may spread, it’s always named based on the place where it started. For instance, colon cancer that has spread to the liver is called metastatic colon cancer, not liver cancer. In this case, cancer cells taken from the liver would be the same as those in the colon. They would be treated in the same ways, too.
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. The disease occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it, too.
Types of Breast Cancer
BREAST CANCER OCCURS IN TWO BROAD CATEGORIES:
- Noninvasive (in situ) breast cancer: Cancerous cells remain in a particular location of the breast, without spreading to surrounding tissue, lobules or ducts.
- Invasive (infiltrating) breast cancer: Cancerous cells break through normal breast tissue barriers and spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymph nodes.
- Breast cancer is also classified based on where in the breast the disease started (e.g., milk ducts, lobules), how the disease grows, and other factors. The tabs on the left provide an overview of some common types of breast cancer.
What is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer found in this country for both men and women. Thanks to modern screening methods this type of cancer can be found earlier and the death rate has been going down for the past 15 years. But still the risk of getting colon cancer in your life time for men is one-in-19 and for women one-in-20.
Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they’re often referred to as colorectal cancers.
Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time some of these polyps become colon cancers.
Colorectal cancer signs and symptoms can be broken down into two general categories: local symptoms and systemic symptoms.
Local symptoms are those that have a direct effect on the colon or rectum. If you experience symptoms of colorectal cancer for an extended period of time, it is important that you visit your healthcare professional. Common local symptoms include:
- Changes in your bowel habits
- Alternating diarrhea and constipation
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Abdominal bloating, cramps/discomfort
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Stools that are thinner than normal
- Systemic colorectal cancer symptoms
Systemic colorectal cancer symptoms are those that affect your entire body. If you experience any of these for any length of time, even for only a couple of days, it is important to have your doctor or healthcare provider diagnose your symptoms. Common systemic symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weakness or fatigue
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50%. The main reason for this change was the increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early − in its most curable stage.
Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (womb). This is sometimes called the uterine cervix. The fetus grows in the body of the uterus (the upper part). The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). The part of the cervix closest to the body of the uterus is called the endocervix. The part next to the vagina is the exocervix (or ectocervix). The 2 main types of cells covering the cervix are squamous cells (on the exocervix) and glandular cells (on the endocervix). These 2 cell types meet at a place called the transformation zone. The exact location of the transformation zone changes as you age and if you give birth.
o Most cervical cancers begin in the cells in the transformation zone. These cells do not suddenly change into cancer. Instead, the normal cells of the cervix first gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that turn into cancer.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Fortunately, prostate cancer is one of the most treatable malignancies if it’s caught early. Routine screening has improved the diagnosis of prostate cancer in recent years. In addition, new and innovative technology helps to minimize the side effects of prostate cancer treatment, including incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
Prostate cancer is cancer that begins in tissues of the prostate gland. Located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum, the prostate is the male sex gland responsible for the production of semen.
Symptoms and Screening:
In most cases, prostate cancer symptoms are not apparent in the early stages of the disease. The symptoms of prostate cancer may be different for each man and any one of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions. As a result, routine screenings in the form of digital rectal exams (DRE) and prostate specific androgen (PSA) tests are important.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men make an informed decision with their doctor about whether to be tested for prostate cancer, beginning at age 50. Men with one or more risk factors for prostate cancer should consult with their physician about whether to start routine screening earlier.
What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a form of cancer that affects the immune system – specifically, it is a cancer of immune cells called lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. There are two broad types of lymphoma and many subtypes.
The two types of lymphoma are described as: Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s.
Lymphoma can occur at any age but is the most common cancer in young people. It is often very treatable, and most people live for a long time after being diagnosed.
Signs and Symptoms of Lymphoma:
The symptoms and signs of lymphoma are very similar to those of simple illnesses such as viral illnesses and the common cold, and this can cause problems with delayed diagnosis.
The difference is that the symptoms of lymphoma persist long after the usual run of a viral infection. Other symptoms that can be experienced by people with lymphoma include the following:
- Swelling in the legs or ankles
- Cramping and bloating of the abdomen
- Night sweats and fever
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Unusual itching
- Pain or altered sensation
- Loss of appetite
- Unusual tiredness/lack of energy
- Persistent coughing
- Enlarged tonsils
Anyone who has swelling of the glands, and does not get better after a short time, should see their doctor.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. 75% of all diagnosed cancers are types of skin cancer. It is also one of the few types of cancer that affects similar subsets of the population regardless of age, gender, or race.
Skin cancer forms when abnormal cells develop and multiply in the layers of the skin. This development is caused by mutations of DNA within the individual cells of the skin. Skin cancer has very high survival rates if diagnosed early; however, this type of cancer is of major concern due to the rising number of people affected. Skin cancer is one the easiest forms of cancer to be diagnosed because it can be visually seen and caught in early stages. Signs of skin cancer often appear first on the head, neck, or back, though they can also develop on any other part of the body.
There are three different types of skin cancer: basal-cell carcinoma, squamous-cell carcinoma, and perhaps the most widely-known type, melanoma. The first two types are, by far, the most common forms of skin cancer. The third form, melanoma, is infamous because of its tendency to spread cancer throughout other areas of the body.
Excessive exposure to the sun is the most common cause of skin cancer. The ultraviolet sun rays alter the genetic material in skin cells. This causes mutations which lead to cancerous cells. Ultraviolet light can also come from tanning booths, sunlamps, and x-rays. The basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma types of cancer have been positively linked to chronic sun or UV exposure. It has been found that one blistering sunburn during childhood nearly doubles a person’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Other factors leading to skin cancer include tobacco use as well as environmental factors such as chronic exposure to x-rays or certain chemicals including arsenic and petroleum products.
What is Lung Cancer?
The most common form of cancer worldwide, lung cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that destroys healthy tissue and can spread to other sites. Symptoms such as coughing and coughing up blood can occur due to the effects of the tumor locally, within the lungs. If some of the cancerous cells break away from the tumor, they can get to the bloodstream and trigger new tumor growths elsewhere, causing the cancer to spread. Such metastases are typically found in organs such as the liver, brain, bones and adrenal glands. It is estimated that about 90 percent of cancer cases are linked to smoking.
The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell cancer and small cell cancer, named after how the cancerous cells appear under a microscope. Small cell cancers grow more quickly and are more likely to spread. Non-small cell lung cancers are further divided by type. Treatments include chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy and other methods.
Doctors use a variety of tests to detect and diagnose lung cancer. The specific test used for each patient depends on the location of a potential tumor or mass. The doctor may test cells, use imaging technology or analyze lung fluids.
During a lung biopsy, the doctor removes a sample of tissue from the lungs and tests it for cancer cells. In some cases, the doctor inserts a hollow needle into the lungs and pulls out a tissue sample without an incision. For patients with potentially cancerous tumors in the biggest parts of the lungs, the doctor may slide a bronchoscope down the throat and remove samples with a brush or surgical instruments. During a mediastinoscopy, the doctor makes a small cut in the neck to secure the samples from the lungs.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries. Ovaries are reproductive glands found only in females (women). The ovaries produce eggs (ova) for reproduction. The eggs travel through the fallopian tubes into the uterus where the fertilized egg implants and develops into a fetus. The ovaries are also the main source of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. One ovary is on each side of the uterus in the pelvis.
Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. At this late stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat and is frequently fatal. Early-stage ovarian cancer, in which the disease is confined to the ovary, is more likely to be treated successfully. Surgery and chemotherapy are generally used to treat ovarian cancer.
Early-stage ovarian cancer rarely causes any symptoms. Advanced-stage ovarian cancer may cause few and nonspecific symptoms that are often mistaken for more common benign conditions, such as constipation or irritable bowel.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
- Quickly feeling full when eating
- Weight loss
- Discomfort in the pelvis area
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
- A frequent need to urinate
When to see a doctor:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If you have a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your risk of ovarian cancer.
What is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the US, but receives extremely little federal funding to support research efforts.
Rates of pancreatic cancer have been fairly stable over the past several years. o Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers in the US, and accounts for about 7% of cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for pancreatic cancer in the United States are for 2015:
- About 48,960 people (24,840 men and 24,120 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
- About 40,560 people (20,710 men and 19,850 women) will die of pancreatic cancer.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
- Pain in the upper or middle abdomen and back
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Factors which could put you at risk for developing pancreatic cancer include:
- Long-standing diabetes
- Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Inherited conditions (including hereditary pancreatitis)
- Familial pancreatic cancer syndromes