Common Types of Cancer

A Brief Review Of Many Types Of Cancer

In general, cancer is caused when the cells within our bodies grow abnormally in certain areas. Because this cell growth can happen in many different areas of our body, there are many different kinds of cancer. As our bodies grow, our cells divide. When these cells get old, they are replaced with fresh ones. This process is one that repeats itself over and over for our entire lives. Essentially, cancer forms when these cells begin to divide and then grow new cells in a way that isn’t normal. Unfortunately, unlike normal cells, the cancerous cells do not die, and rather continue to grow, pushing into the space of the healthy cells in an invasive way. Different cancers require different kinds of treatment for the best results, so it is important for your physician to determine what type of cancer you have before deciding how to proceed with fighting it. Below is a list of some common types of cancer. For more detailed information on any of these cancers, please visit the American Cancer Society website.

  • Brain Cancer – A brain tumor can be either cancerous or non-cancerous, and occurs when a mass of cells in the brain experience abnormal growth. This condition can be fairly common. Currently, there are about 200,000-3 million cases noted in the United States each year. The cases primarily involve those aged 60 and over, and are often treated with surgery. If the removed tumor is found to be cancerous, it is medically treatable through chemotherapy, radiation, or additional surgeries.
  • Breast Cancer – Breast cancer is abnormal cell growth within the tissue of the breasts, and it is a very common form of cancer, with over 3 million cases noted in the United States each year. Although this form of cancer mostly effects women, it can appear in men as well. Typically, breast cancer develops in people aged 40 and older. This form of cancer is very treatable, especially when detected early. Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery to remove cancerous cells.
  • Cervical Cancer – Cervical cancer begins when cells within the cervix grow abnormally. This creates a malignant tumor in the lowest part of the uterus, where the cervix is located. The cervix serves as the opening between a woman’s uterus and vagina, and is the important ‘doorway’ that allows a baby to pass through the birth canal and into the world during childbirth. In most cases, a sexually transmitted virus called Human Papillomavirus (or HPV) causes cervical cancer to form. Today, many young women are vaccinated to prevent HPV, but this is a fairly new process and must be done at a young age, (typically around 11 or 12 years old). For those who are unable to be vaccinated against HPV, the risk of contacting cervical cancer is still rare.Typically, there are no symptoms of cervical cancer, so yearly gynecological visits and pap tests help to check for any abnormalities. As cervical cancer mostly affects women between the ages of 30 and 55, this is an especially important time for regular exams and, if suggested, HPV testing. The disease is medically treatable and treatments often include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these items.
  • Colon Cancer – When abnormal cell growth occurs in the colon or rectum, (which are positioned at the end of the digestive tract,) this is called colon cancer. This common form of cancer mostly effects those over 40, and is medically treatable. Because this cancer tends to begin its early stages as non-cancerous polyps, screenings for polyps can help prevent it and/or provide early detection. Doctors recommend these screenings for anyone over 50 or anyone considered ‘at risk.’ Treatment for this condition includes chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
  • Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD) – Gestational Trophoblastic Disease occurs during gestation (pregnancy) when a rare grouping of tumors grow which cause the placenta to develop abnormally. Fortunately, over 80% of these cases are completely non-cancerous, and all cases can be treated, most of which result in a cure. Women who develop GTD can go on to have healthy pregnancies.
  • Lung Cancer – When abnormal cells grow in the lungs, this is termed lung cancer. Lung cancer most frequently appears in people who are smokers or who have been frequently exposed to second hand smoke. It is a common form of cancer. Most cases appear in people ages 40 and older. There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell and non-small cell. Symptoms of both can include chest pain and coughing, though these conditions don’t often appear until the cancer has become more advanced. This cancer is medically treatable, and treatments typically include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.
  • Ovarian Cancer – Perhaps one of the most commonly-known forms of Gynecologic cancer, ovarian cancer is the seventh most common form of cancer among women. It appears to have three types: epithelial ovarian cancer, germ cell cancer, and stromal cell cancer. The most common form of ovarian cancer, found in about 85-89% cases of those diagnosed, is Epithelial. As its name suggests, it forms on the epithelial cells covering the surface of the ovary. This type of cancer ranks fourth in cancer-related deaths among women and first in Gynecological cancer-related deaths. On the other hand, stromal cell cancer is rare and begins in the female-hormone producing cells which hold the ovarian tissue together. Likewise, germ cell cancer is very uncommon, accounting for only about 5% of ovarian cancer cases. Typically discovered in young women and adolescent girls, this cancer, which usually effects only one of the ovaries, begins in the cells which form the eggs.
  • Primary Peritoneal – Primary peritoneal cancer occurs when the protective sheet of tissue called the peritoneum, which covers the surface of all organs located in the abdomen, develops abnormal cancerous cells. This type of cancer can occur throughout the abdomen and affect any organ it appears on the surface of. Related to PPC is also fallopian tube cancer, which grows on the tubes that connect to each side of the uterus and ovaries. Because of the way this cancer develops, many physicians diagnosing this type of cancer mistake it for ovarian cancer. It causes both the ovaries and fallopian tubes to swell, and it is often difficult to tell where it has originated from, which can lead to misdiagnosis. When the fallopian tubes initially swell, however, they produce a water-like liquid which can leak out as vaginal discharge, indicating FTC.
  • Skin Cancer – Skin cancer can appear anywhere on your body and takes place when skin cells grow abnormally. Common forms of skin cancer are Basal cell cancer, Melanoma, and Squamous cell skin carcinoma. Skin cancer often appears when skin has been damaged by UV rays. It is a common form of cancer, and is medically treatable. The most serious type of skin cancer is melanoma, also called malignant melanoma. This type of cancer occurs when the cells that give your skin color become cancerous. While skin cancer most frequently appears in those ages 40 and older, it is a good idea to do occasional skin checks to watch for new growths, or changes within existing moles.
  • Uterine / Endometrial Cancer – Uterine cancers are cancers of the uterus, and endometrial cancer is the most common of the uterine cancers. The lining of the uterus is also called the endometrium. When cells here grow and become cancerous, it is known as endometrial cancer. This cancer can spread into the muscle walls and sometimes even outside of the uterus, to the ovaries, lymph nodes, or abdominal area. Additionally, uterine sarcomas are caused when malignant cells form in the muscle area of the uterus or in the network of support cells found within the uterine lining. These are typically more aggressive forms of cancer, which spread more quickly, although they happen more rarely, in only about 5% of cases.
  • Vaginal Cancer – As its name implies, vaginal cancer develops in the vagina or birth canal area. This space connects the outer genitalia to the uterus. Most of these cancers begin in the lining of the vagina and typically affect women between the age of 50 and 70. Primary vaginal cancer is one of the most rare forms of gynecologic cancers. Many forms of vaginal cancers have been connected to HPV, so if young enough, patients are encouraged to get vaccinated against HPV as a preventative measure.
  • Vulvar Cancer – Vulvar cancer develops on the vulva, which is comprised of both the inner and outer vaginal lips, the clitoris, and also the vaginal opening area and glands. This cancer is highly curable but can have an adverse effect on sexual function, bladder control, rectal function, and even body image. Again, doctors recommend preventative protection with the HPV vaccine, and/or routine gynecological examinations. Any changes in shape or size of vulva should be biopsied as quickly as possible.