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Whenever someone hears the word cancer, fear often sets in because the first tendency is to think of death. Not all cancers lead to death and most cancers, if caught early, can be cured. Still, it is a frightening thing to be told that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. So what is this terrible thing we all fear?
First of all, cancer is a general term that is given to over a hundred different diseases. Even though there are over a hundred different types of cancers, every one of them starts when abnormal cells in the body begin to rapidly grow. The body contains literally trillions of cells. Normal cells grow, then divide to make new cells and then die off. Abnormal cells just continue to grow.
What causes a cell to become abnormal? Although this area is still being studied, it has been found that when the DNA of a cell becomes damaged, cancer sets in. In most cases, the cancer cells form into tumors. If the cancer cells gets into the body’s bloodstream, they can form tumors throughout the body. Not all cancer cells form tumors however. For example, leukemia is generally a cancer that forms an overabundance of white blood cells rather than any tumors.
It is important to note that not all tumors are cancerous. When a tumor is the result of cancer cells it is referred to as being malignant. When it is formed through other means, it is referred to as being benign. Benign tumors are not cancerous but can still cause their own health issues and pain but rarely ever are associated with death.
BRIEF HISTORY OF CANCER
The first documented case of cancer goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, somewhere around 1500 B.C. At that time, the Egyptians believed that the Gods caused the cancers. However, it was Hippocrates, a Greek physician, who first used the word cancer. He actually used the words carcinos and carcinoma to describe tumors.
TYPES OF CANCERS
Although there are over 100 diseases that are classified as cancer, in the United States there are 12 cancers that are the most commonly diagnosed. These include:
Skin Cancer – Of all the cancers, skin cancer is the most common in both men and women. Unprotected skin from sun rays causes the skin cells to breakdown and form abnormal cells. Melanoma is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer.
Bladder Cancer – This is the 5th most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. When found early, it is very treatable. There are several different types of bladder cancers but the most common, accounting for 90% of all bladder cancers is urothelial carcinoma.
Breast Cancer – After skin cancer, this is the most common cancer found in women. It is the abnormal growth of cells in the breast. Although it does occur mainly in women, men can also develop breast cancer.
Colon Cancer – This type of cancer occurs when cancer cells develop in the large intestine. At present, the actual cause of colon cancer is not known. Colon cancer cells can grow for a long period of time before their symptoms ever show. This makes the death rate of colon cancers high because generally when a person feels or experiences the symptoms, the cancer is advanced. Because of this, regular colonoscopies are recommended for early detection to catch it in the early stages.
Endometrial Cancer – This type of cancer is only found in women. It is when cancer cells are found in the endometrium which is the lining of the uterus. Studies have not made a determination of what causes this type of cancer but it is believed it is associated with the estrogen levels produced by the ovaries.
Kidney Cancer –Renal cell carcinoma accounts for 90% of all kidney cancers. Although found in both men and women, this type of disease is found most often in men, especially men who have smoked regularly.
Leukemia – This cancer begins in the bone marrow and affects the forming of blood cells, generally by causing an excessive amount of white blood cells to form.
Lung Cancer – This type of cancer grows within the lungs and is found in both men and women. It is the leading cause of death in the U.S. There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Smoking accounts for 80% of all lung cancers. However, even non-smokers can develop lung cancer, partially from breathing in secondhand smoke. Exposure to asbestos is also a leading cause of lung cancer.
Lymphoma – This type of cancer develops in the lymphatic system which is part of the immune system that helps filter out bacteria and fight disease. There are two main groups of lymphoma cancers, i.e., Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. There are approximately 30 different types of lymphoma.
Pancreatic Cancer – This is when cancer cells invade the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for producing enzymes that breakdown proteins and carbohydrates during the digestive process. The most common pancreatic cancer is adenocarcinoma. If detected late, recover and/or remission from this cancer is slim.
Prostate Cancer – This is the growth of cancer cells in the male’s prostate. It is not known what causes this cancer but it has been linked to heredity.
Thyroid Cancer – This is the growth of cancer cells in the thyroid. People who have received radiation treatment to their neck have a higher risk of developing this type of cancer. Anaplastic carcinoma is the most dangerous form of thyroid cancer.
As mentioned earlier, all cancers can be stopped and/or cured if caught early enough. This is why it is important to get regular check-ups and do self-check-ups as well. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence and as medicine advances, more and more people are becoming survivors. Knowing the most common cancers can help you to look out for their symptoms and, more important, avoid their triggers such as smoking or basking in the sun without protection (sun screen).
Now let’s see if you can remember the different types of cancers. Look over the next ten questions and see how many of them you can get right.