Here are the 9 most common types of cancer
- Cancer can form in any part of the body.
- Depending on the type and location of cancer, survival rates can vary widely.
- There is still no foolproof cure for cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer is the second leading cause of death in Americans, behind heart disease. While diagnosis and treatment have improved considerably over the years, cancer still has the ability to kill, even when detected early and treated aggressively.
Some cancers are far more aggressive and lethal than others, but any diagnosis of "the Big C" can cause much emotional distress for patients and their families. However, if many types of cancers are detected early enough, they can often be either controlled or sent into remission.
But in order to defeat an enemy like cancer, you must first know more about it. Let's take a closer look at this dreadful disease.
What are some common symptoms of cancer?
Knowing the potential indicators of cancer is important regardless of your age or state of health. Symptoms are generally insufficient to diagnose the illness on their own. However, they may serve as hints for you and your physician to quickly identify and address the issue. Treatment for many types of cancer is most effective early on when a tumor is tiny and the disease hasn't spread to other parts of the body.
The signs listed below are not exhaustive and do not necessarily indicate the presence of cancer. There are many common conditions that might share these symptoms. Visit your doctor as soon as possible so they can examine you more closely and take appropriate measures.
Cancer frequently exhibits the following symptoms in both men and women:
- Pain - Bone cancer frequently hurts right away. Headaches from certain brain tumors might linger for days and don't get better with treatment. See a doctor if you experience pain that you don't understand or that doesn't go away, because the pain might be an indicator of cancer.
- Unexpected weight loss - Nearly 50% of cancer patients experience weight loss. This is often the first noticeable symptom of cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, stomach, and lung. In other cancers, such as ovarian cancer, weight loss may occur when a tumor grows large enough to press on the stomach.
- Fatigue - Inform your doctor if you feel exhausted all the time and resting doesn't help. Cancer cells use your body's nutrients to grow, leaving less for the functional parts of your body to use.
- A fever - Call your doctor if it is severe or lasts for longer than three days. Other warning signs include a recurring fever or night sweats with no other signs of infection.
- Alterations to your skin - Have any new or strange moles, bumps, or marks examined by your doctor to be sure skin cancer isn't hiding there. It is especially important to have a doctor examine moles that have changed rapidly in shape, size, or color. Additionally, your skin can reveal signs of other malignancies. It can be an indication of liver, ovarian, renal, or lymphoma if it darkens, appears yellow or red, itches, sprouts more hair, or if you have an unexplained rash.
- Wounds that don't heal - Another indication of skin cancer can be a spot that bleeds and won't go away. Sores in the mouth might be the first sign of oral cancer. You run an increased risk of this if you smoke, chew tobacco, or consume large amounts of alcohol.
- Persistent hoarseness or coughing - Coughing can be one indication of lung cancer, while hoarseness could be a sign of thyroid or laryngeal cancer.
- Abnormal bleeding - Blood that appears where it shouldn't be can be a sign of cancer. Blood in the stool is one sign of rectal or colon cancer. Additionally, malignancies in the urinary tract might result in blood in the urine.
- Anemia - This occurs when your bone marrow, which produces red blood cells, is insufficient. Your marrow can be harmed by cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Regular red blood cells may be displaced by tumors that travel there from other locations.
For men only, there are some sex-specific symptoms that could indicate the presence of cancer. For men, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers are the most prevalent cancers that tend to develop.
Male cancer symptoms include:
- Problems urinating - An enlarged prostate may make it difficult to urinate or necessitate frequent urination. Let your doctor know immediately if you have pain when you urinate or if urine contains blood.
- A mass, discomfort, or ache in the scrotum. Testicular cancer could be indicated by these symptoms.
Women, on the other hand, are more susceptible to some forms of cancer that are usually not expressed in males. Breast, lung, and colorectal cancer are some of the most common cancers in women, although men can also have these types of cancer. Cancers such as uterine, endometrial, cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers are particular to women.
Some of the warning signs for women include:
- Vaginal bleeding or discharge - If you experience vaginal bleeding or discharge between periods or after menopause, see a doctor. This may be one symptom of endometrial cancer.
- Appetite change - Ovarian cancer can lead to a feeling of being full or make it difficult to eat. Indigestion or nausea can also be brought on by other malignancies. Although not all types of cancer alter your appetite if it has been more than two weeks since you last felt hungry, speak to your doctor.
- Bloating and stomach pain - This is typically the result of a minor gastrointestinal issue that makes you feel gassy, crampy, and bloated. However, if these symptoms persist, you should consult your doctor.
- Change to your breasts - It is important to perform regular breast exams. Inform the physician if 1) your cleavage feels different, 2) you locate any lumps, 3) you observe abrupt size fluctuations, 4) your nipples are dripping fluid, and 5) the skin around your nipples has patches or other alterations.
How does cancer start?
Every cancer starts in cells. More than a hundred billion billion (100,000,000,000,000) cells make up our bodies. Changes in one cell or a small number of cells can lead to the development of cancer.
When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place. How much and how frequently cells divide is regulated by a number of factors, but sometimes this orderly process breaks down, and abnormal or damaged cells grow and multiply when they shouldn't. When cancer occurs, cells may begin to grow and multiply in an uncontrolled way, resulting in the formation of a mass known as a tumor if any of these signals are damaged or absent.
The primary tumor is where cancer first appears. Some cancers, like leukemia, attack different parts of the body; in this case, cancer originates in blood cells. With leukemia, however, tumors do not grow in a clump. Instead, cancer cells accumulate in the blood and, occasionally, the bone marrow.
However, any cell is technically vulnerable to becoming cancerous. While the functions of various cell types in the body vary, their basic functions are pretty much alike.
Every cell has a nucleus, which serves as its command center. Chromosomes, which contain thousands of genes, are located inside the nucleus. Long strands of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) are found in genes and serve as coded instructions for making proteins and other molecules.
Genes can be thought of as instructions for producing different products that the cells need. This may be a protein or regulatory molecule that helps the cell assemble proteins. RNA. This process helps to control elements such as:
- What kind of cell will develop
- The function of the cell - what proteins are made and how they work
- Regulation of cell division
Genes ensure that cells develop and replicate (make copies) in an orderly and controlled manner, which is necessary to maintain the body's wellness.
When a cell divides, the genes can occasionally change. This is called a mutation. Ultimately, this means that a gene has been damaged or changed in some way.
A cell can randomly undergo a mutation while it is dividing. Some mutations result in the cell losing the ability to comprehend its own instructions. It might begin to outgrow control. One mutation is not generally enough to cause cancer. Usually, cancer occurs from multiple mutations over a period of time. That is one reason why cancer occurs more often in older people.
Gene mutations in a specific gene could signify that:
- The cell starts making too many proteins, which in turn triggers the cell to divide
- A cell stops making proteins that normally tell a cell to stop dividing
- Abnormal proteins may be produced that work differently from normal
A damaged cell can take years to divide, grow, and develop into a tumor large enough to produce symptoms or be detected on a scan.
But what actually causes a cell's genes to mutate?
Since mutations can happen by chance when a cell is dividing, this can result in the cell becoming accidentally cancerous. But, mutations can also occur during the normal functions of cellular life.
Mutations can also be triggered by substances that enter the body from the outside, such as the substances in cigarette smoke. Sometimes, people also inherit genetic flaws that increase their risk of getting cancer.
Every day, some genes are damaged, but cells are quite good at fixing them. But the harm can worsen over time. Additionally, if cells develop too quickly, they are less able to repair the damaged genes and may be more prone to acquiring new mutations.
How does cancer cause death?
The first point to note is that not all cancers are fatal.
In England and Wales, for example, 50 out of every 100 (50%) people with cancer survive for ten years or more. In the U.K., cancer survivorship is increasing and has doubled in the past 40 years. However, there is a huge variation in ten-year survival rates for different types of cancer, ranging from 98% for testicular cancer to just 1% for pancreatic cancer.
Early-stage cancer typically does not result in death. This is why early diagnosis, when treatment is most likely to be effective, is a vital intervention to increase the likelihood of survival.
However, the availability of cancer screening has had a major impact on survival rates over the last few years, as some medical institutions focused more of their resources on COVID-19 and provided fewer cancer screenings. The true impact of COVID-19 on cancer screening and treatment is yet to be seen in medical statistics in many countries around the world.
However, in those cases where cancer develops without being spotted early, it tends to be more deadly.
Cancer kills by encroaching on vital organs, nerves, or blood arteries, interfering with their normal operation, and, if serious enough, causing death. What's more, cancer can develop in any type of human cell too.
Usually, new cells form through growth and division. When a cell is too old or damaged, it dies and is replaced by newly created cells.
But this process of cellular death and renewal is hampered by cancer. As a result, old cells can survive when the body should be destroying them, and new cells can have abnormalities that worsen with time.
New cells may also form when there is no need for them. These extra cells have the potential to start dividing uncontrollably and evolve into tumors. But, the actual reason that cancer will kill a patient depends entirely on the type and location of the tumor or tumors.
For example, the digestive tract may be blocked completely or partially by cancer, or large parts of it may not be working properly. Therefore, food cannot be digested as needed, and the necessary calories and nutrients cannot be absorbed.
You won't get the nutrients you need to support your immune system or other body functions if the digestive system is not working properly. As a result, your body may be less equipped to handle other issues, including infection.
Lung cancer kills in many ways. Bronchial obstruction can cause pneumonia, or cancer can invade and disrupt blood vessels, leading to fatal hemorrhage.
When cancer spreads across the lungs, there may eventually be insufficient healthy lung tissue for you to be able to take in the necessary oxygen.
Even with powerful new medications and treatments, advanced cancer patients might not have the strength to combat a lung infection. Therefore, the infection may ultimately result in death.
Bones affected by cancer can result in calcium entering the bloodstream. The body has systems to correct this, but the systems won't work anymore when the imbalance becomes too great.
There is a remedy for restoring calcium levels to normal, but it only lasts so long. The blood calcium levels can then continue to climb. Patients may lose consciousness and eventually pass away if their bodies contain too much calcium.
Bone marrow can be impacted by cancerous cells too. Bone marrow is the spongy substance that fills the bones called bone marrow. There are two types: red bone marrow contains blood stem cells that can become red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets; yellow bone marrow contains stem cells that can become cartilage, fat, or bone cells.
If the bone marrow is affected by cancer, you might eventually run out of sufficient, healthy bone marrow to create new white blood cells to combat infection or stop bleeding, or new red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.
Any or all of these are obviously a ticking time bomb for a patient over the long run.
Then there is the liver. It performs numerous functions and is crucial for preserving the harmony of the body's chemical composition. This chemical equilibrium can be disturbed by cancer that has spread to the liver.
If the body is unable to restore this chemical balance, it may be life-threatening.
Another common fatal cancer is that which impacts the vascular system. In a crucial area of the body, blood vessels can develop into tumors and cause harm. The brain may bleed as a result of this. If some crucial areas of the brain are affected, this bleeding may result in death.
What are the most deadly cancers?
The likelihood that you will survive cancer depends on the type, stage, and type of treatment you receive. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, there were 1.9 million new instances of cancer in Americans in 2021, along with 608,570 cancer-related fatalities.
But what types of cancer tend to be the most fatal? Let's take a look.
1. Lung cancer tends to be a very big killer
- In 2022 in the United States, 236,740 incidences of lung and bronchial cancer are anticipated.
- Of those, these forms of cancer are anticipated to result in something like 130,180 people.
Lung cancer is frequently only discovered after it has developed to an advanced stage in many patients. Therefore, it is more likely that sufferers who are diagnosed late will succumb to the illness in the end. According to the CDC, lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in 2020, accounting for 23% of all cancer deaths.
Small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer are the two main kinds of diseases caused. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, and immunotherapy, depending on the type and stage.
2. Colorectal cancer is another very serious form of cancer
- In 2022 in the United States, 150,030 incidences of colorectal cancer are anticipated.
- Of those, these forms of cancer were anticipated to result in something like 52,580 deaths.
Colorectal cancer may initially exhibit little or no symptoms. It can be curable and has a decent five-year survival rate if discovered early. How many persons with the illness are still alive five years after their diagnosis is determined by five-year survival rates.
Around 80% survive their cancer for one year or more, and almost 60% survive their cancer for five years or more.
Early-stage colon cancer can often be identified and treated with a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy employs a tiny camera mounted on a small, flexible tube to look for indications of colon cancer.
During a colonoscopy, small, early-stage malignancies may also be removed. Surgery is typically required for larger tumors. It is occasionally used with radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and/or immunotherapy. These therapies reduce tumor size and stop their spread.
3. Breast cancer can be a big killer among women and some men too
- In 2022 in the United States, 287,850 incidences of breast cancer are anticipated.
- Of those, these forms of cancer were anticipated to result in something like 43,250 deaths.
Cancerous cells in the lining of the breast's lobules or ducts are what cause breast cancer. While the vast majority of cases are found in women, men make up around 1% of all breast cancer cases. The process through which cells become cancerous and infiltrate other body tissues takes time.
Surgical treatments for breast cancer may include removal of the breast tissue and associated lymph glands (mastectomy) or lumpectomy.
Other than surgery, there are other methods to help treat this type of cancer. These include, but are not limited to: -
- Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy is a method of treating cancer with drugs.
- The use of hormone treatment to reduce or stop the growth of cancers that are sensitive to certain hormones, such as estrogen
- Biological therapies for cancer treatment rely on your body's immune system.
- Targeted medicines that either destroy particular cancer cells or prevent them from proliferating
4. Pancreatic cancer is another big killer
- In 2022 in the United States, 62,210 incidences of pancreatic cancer are anticipated.
- Of those, these forms of cancer were anticipated to result in something like 49,830 deaths.
Pancreatic cancer, once it starts, tends to be one of the most aggressive of all cancers. It frequently kills rapidly and produces uncomfortable symptoms like these:
- Severe abdominal pain.
- Blocked bile ducts (the tubes that drain the liver's digestive juices).
- Ascites, which is an accumulation of fluid in your belly.
Despite its aggressive nature, there aren't many reliable screening options for pancreatic cancer yet. But, regular ultrasound and MRI/CT imaging tests should be performed on people who are at increased risk.
Aggressive chemotherapy and surgery are frequently required for people with this kind of cancer. When tumors cannot be removed, radiation may be used to reduce their size.
Only 10% to 20% of cancer patients are candidates for surgery. In the U.S., five-year survival rates for localized pancreatic cancer are around 42%, but for all stages of pancreatic cancer, this drops to 11%.
5. Prostate cancer kills many men every year
- In 2022 in the United States, 268,490 incidences of prostate cancer are anticipated.
- Of those, these forms of cancer were anticipated to result in something like 34,500 deaths.
The prostate is located between the rectum and bladder in the center of the lower pelvis. Its main purpose is to produce the fluid that nourishes sperm in men.
Since the prostate is a gland rather than an organ, per se, it is an example of something called adenocarcinoma. It typically affects older men, is more prevalent in black men, and is more likely to run in families.
Prostate tumors typically grow slowly. This form of cancer may not immediately show signs in its victims, and in older men, in particular, it may move so slowly that only minimal treatment is recommended. Doctors might opt for a wait-and-see approach to treatment as a result. Interestingly, many people with prostate cancer die of unrelated causes, such as a heart attack or stroke.
Even if they have no symptoms, older men should be frequently checked for prostate cancer using a digital rectal exam and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, although many professionals today dispute the usefulness of prostate screening.
Prostate cancer treatment usually involves one or more of the following:
- A prostatectomy, or surgery where the gland is surgically removed in part or in its entirety.
- The use of external radiation
- Brachytherapy involves the use of radioactive iodine, which is inserted into the prostate to treat cancer.
6. Esophageal cancer is another very serious form of cancer
- In 2022 in the United States, 20,640 incidences of esophageal cancer are anticipated.
- Of those, these forms of cancer were anticipated to result in something like 16,410 deaths.
The esophagus is the muscular tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. Older age, being a man, smoking, consuming alcohol, and having severe acid reflux (where stomach acid rises into the lower esophagus), are risk factors for esophageal cancer.
Depending on how far along the cancer is, there are a variety of possible treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and targeted therapies.
7. Liver cancer is surprisingly common
- In 2022 in the United States, 41,260 incidences of liver cancer are anticipated.
- Of those, these forms of cancer were anticipated to result in something like 30,520 deaths.
One of the most prevalent types of cancer in the world is liver cancer. Although liver cancer is not widespread in the U.S., it has been on the rise since the 1980s, with its incidence more than doubling.
Chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infections are the main cause of liver cancer. Blood and semen are just two body fluids that can spread either of these illnesses. Although there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, the CDC advises that all children receive the hepatitis B vaccine.
Intrahepatic bile duct cancer, which develops in the ducts that transfer bile from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine, where the bile aids in the digestion of lipids from the diet, is a closely related cancer.
8. Brain cancers are another very deadly form of cancer
- In 2022 in the United States, 25,050 incidences of brain and nervous system cancer are anticipated.
- Of those, these forms of cancer were anticipated to result in something like 18,280 deaths.
In adults, brain tumors rarely begin in the brain. Instead, they usually spread there from other malignancies.
However, as malignancies are classified according to their location of origin, brain tumors that are caused by tumors that began elsewhere in the body are generally excluded from brain cancer survival statistics.
If a person passed away from cancer that started in the lung and spread to the brain, for instance, the death would have an impact on lung cancer survival numbers rather than brain cancer survival statistics.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most brain tumors in children, however, do start in the brain. Family history and radiation exposure to the head are risk factors for brain tumors. Typically, radiation exposure occurs while undergoing treatment for another cancer.
Treatment options for brain tumors can range from surgery to radiation to chemotherapy to immunotherapies to targeted medicines, depending on the tumor type and the extent of the malignancy at the time of diagnosis.
9. Leukemia is a very nasty variant of cancer
- In 2022 in the United States, 25,050 incidences of brain and nervous system cancer are anticipated.
- Of those, these forms of cancer were anticipated to result in something like 18,280 deaths.
Leukemias develop from stem cells in the bone marrow, which differentiate into different blood-cell precursors and eventually blood cells. It is caused by a rise in the number of white blood cells in your body. Those excess white blood cells don't work properly, and they crowd out the red blood cells and platelets your body needs.
For this reason, they are categorized based on the stage at which blood cells and their precursors stop developing and turn malignant.
A malignancy that arises in myeloid cells (as opposed to lymphoid cells), which are blood precursor cells with the capacity to differentiate into red blood cells, some types of white blood cells, and platelets, is referred to as acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, in AML, stem cells get stuck at an immature stage and become "blast cells" rather than maturing into various blood cell types. In healthy blood, there are either no or extremely few blast cells. Numerous signs of AML, such as recurrent infections, easy bruising, and bleeding easily, are brought on by having too many blast cells and too few healthy blood cells.
AML can affect anyone at any age, but it is more common in adults than in children. Benzene exposure, smoking, and prior chemotherapy or radiation treatments for other cancers all raise the likelihood of developing it, but its exact cause is mostly unknown. Chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, and targeted medicines are all possible treatments.
And that is your lot for today.
Cancer is one of the most terrible health conditions a person can ever suffer in their life. While some are more survivable than others, we have no 100 percent method of defeating it to date.
But, many of the world's greatest minds are working on the problem and finding new and interesting potential methods to cure it.