Cancer


English: Most common cancers in the United Sta...

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Today we will go over some quick tidbits on Cancer, what it is and the most common variants.

Cancer, also called: Carcinoma, Malignancy, Neoplasms, Tumor

Cancer begins in your cells, which are the building blocks of your body. Normally, your body forms new cells as you need them, replacing old cells that die. Sometimes this process goes wrong. New cells grow even when you don’t need them, and old cells don’t die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass called a tumor. Tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors aren’t cancer while malignant ones are. Cells from malignant tumors can invade nearby tissues. They can also break away and spread to other parts of the body.

Most cancers are named for where they start. For example, lung cancer starts in the lung, and breast cancer starts in the breast. The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another is called metastasis. Symptoms and treatment depend on the cancer type and how advanced it is. Treatment plans may include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types are basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. They usually form on the head, face, neck, hands and arms. Another type of skin cancer, melanoma, is more dangerous but less common.

Anyone can get skin cancer, but it is more common in people who:

  • Spend a lot of time in the sun or have been sunburned
  • Have light-colored skin, hair and eyes
  • Have a family member with skin cancer
  • Are over age 50

You should have your doctor check any suspicious skin markings and any changes in the way your skin looks. Treatment is more likely to work well when cancer is found early. If not treated, some types of skin cancer cells can spread to other tissues and organs.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives. Breast cancer kills more women in the United States than any cancer except lung cancer. No one knows why some women get breast cancer, but there are a number of risk factors. Risks that you cannot change include

  • Age – the chance of getting breast cancer rises as a woman gets older
  • Genes – there are two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that greatly increase the risk. Women who have family members with breast or ovarian cancer may wish to be tested.
  • Personal factors – beginning periods before age 12 or going through menopause after age 55

Other risks include being overweight, using hormone replacement therapy (also called menopausal hormone therapy), taking birth control pills, drinking alcohol, not having children or having your first child after age 35 or having dense breasts.

Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in size or shape of the breast or discharge from a nipple. Breast self-exam and mammography can help find breast cancer early when it is most treatable. Treatment may consist of radiation, lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

Men can have breast cancer, too, but the number of cases is small.

Cervical Cancer

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, the place where a baby grows during pregnancy. Cervical cancer is caused by several types of a virus called human papillomaviruses (HPV). The virus spreads through sexual contact. Most women’s bodies are able to fight HPV infection. But sometimes the virus leads to cancer. You’re at higher risk if you smoke, have many children, use birth control pills for a long time, or have HIV infection.

Cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms at first, but later, you may have pelvic pain or bleeding from the vagina. It usually takes several years for normal cells in the cervix to turn into cancer cells. Your health care provider can find abnormal cells by doing a Pap test – examining cells from the cervix under a microscope. By getting regular Pap tests and pelvic exams you can find and treat changing cells before they turn into cancer.

A vaccine for girls and young women protects against the four types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. It is a leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. Cigarette smoking causes most lung cancers. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier you started smoking, the greater your risk of lung cancer. High levels of pollution, radiation and asbestos exposure may also increase risk.

Common symptoms of lung cancer include

  • A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
  • Repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Fatigue

There are many types of lung cancer. Each type of lung cancer grows and spreads in different ways and is treated differently. Treatment also depends on the stage, or how advanced it is. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal or “ugly looking.”

Thinking of “ABCD” can help you remember what to watch for:

  • Asymmetry – the shape of one half does not match the other
  • Border – the edges are ragged, blurred or irregular
  • Color – the color in uneven and may include shades of black, brown and tan
  • Diameter – there is a change in size, usually an increase

Melanoma can be cured if it is diagnosed and treated early. If melanoma is not removed in its early stages, cancer cells may grow downward from the skin surface and invade healthy tissue. If it spreads to other parts of the body it can be difficult to control.

Mesothelioma

The tissue that lines your lungs, stomach, heart and other organs is called mesothelium. Mesothelioma is cancer of that tissue. It is a rare but serious type of cancer. It usually starts in the lungs, but can also start in the abdomen or other organs. Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles. It can take a long time – 30 to 50 years – between being around asbestos and getting the disease. Treatment includes surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or all three.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can form in any part of the mouth or throat. Most oral cancers begin in the tongue and in the floor of the mouth. Anyone can get oral cancer, but the risk is higher if you are male, over age 40, use tobacco or alcohol or have a history of head or neck cancer. Frequent sun exposure is also a risk for lip cancer.

Symptoms of oral cancer include

  • White or red patches in your mouth
  • A mouth sore that won’t heal
  • Bleeding in your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Problems or pain with swallowing
  • A lump in your neck
  • An earache

Oral cancer treatments may include surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Some patients have a combination of treatments.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer usually happens in women over age 50, but it can also affect younger women. Its cause is unknown. Ovarian cancer is hard to detect early.

The sooner ovarian cancer is found and treated, the better your chance for recovery. But ovarian cancer is hard to detect early. Many times, women with ovarian cancer have no symptoms or just mild symptoms until the disease is in an advanced stage and hard to treat. Symptoms may include:

  • Heavy feeling in pelvis
  • Pain in lower abdomen
  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Abnormal periods
  • Unexplained back pain that gets worse
  • Gas, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite

Treatment is usually surgery followed by treatment with medicines called chemotherapy.

Thyroid Cancer

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, just above your collarbone. It makes hormones that help the body work normally. Anyone can get cancer of the thyroid gland. But certain factors may increase the risk. These include

  • Being between ages 25 and 65
  • Being a woman
  • Being Asian
  • Having a family member who has had thyroid disease
  • Having radiation treatments to your head or neck

You should see a doctor if you have a lump or swelling in your neck. Your doctor can order tests to see if you have cancer and, if so, which type. Treatment depends on the type and how far the cancer has spread. They include surgery, radioactive iodine, hormone treatment, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Some patients receive a combination of treatments.

Childhood Brain Tumors

Brain tumors are growths inside your skull. They are among the most common types of childhood cancers. Some are benign tumors, which aren’t cancer. They can still be serious. Malignant tumors are cancerous.

Symptoms of a brain tumor might include

  • Headache
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Trouble controlling muscles
  • Seizures
  • Vision or speech problems

Treatment for children is sometimes different than for an adult. Long-term side effects are an important issue. The options also depend on the type of tumor and where it is. Removal of the tumor is often possible. If not, radiation, chemotherapy or both may be used.

Colorectal Cancer

Cancer of the colon or rectum is also called colorectal cancer. In the United States, it is the fourth most common cancer in men and women. Caught early, it is often curable.

It is more common in people over 50, and the risk increases with age. You are also more likely to get it if you have

  • Polyps – growths inside the colon and rectum that may become cancerous
  • A diet that is high in fat
  • A family history or personal history of colorectal cancer
  • Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease

Symptoms can include blood in the stool, narrower stools, a change in bowel habits and general stomach discomfort. However, you may not have symptoms at first, so screening is important. Everyone who is 50 or older should be screened for colorectal cancer. Colonoscopy is one method that your doctor can use to screen for colorectal cancer. Treatments for colorectal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination.

Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer is a rare type of cancer. It is more common in women 60 and older. You are also more likely to get it if you have a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection or if your mother took diethylstilbestrol (DES) when she was pregnant. Doctors prescribed DES in the 1950’s to prevent miscarriages.

It often doesn’t have early symptoms. However, see your doctor if you notice

  • Bleeding that is not your period
  • A vaginal lump
  • Pelvic pain

A Pap test can find abnormal cells that may be cancer. Vaginal cancer can often be cured in its early stages. Treatment might include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

 

Treatment Options

Radiation Therapy

Radiation is a form of energy released in particles or waves. In high doses, radiation destroys cells or keeps them from multiplying.

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment. Its goal is to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Unlike cancer cells, most of your normal cells recover from radiation therapy. Doctors try to protect normal cells by limiting the radiation dosage and spreading treatment out over time. When they use radiation machines, they shield as much of your body as possible while targeting the cancer.

The radiation for cancer treatment comes externally, from special machines, or internally, from radioactive substances that a doctor places in your body. Sometimes radiation is used with other treatments, like surgery or chemotherapy.

Alternative Therapies

You have many choices to make about your cancer treatment. One choice you might be thinking about is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). CAM is the term for medical products and practices that are not part of standard care. Standard care is what medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, and allied health professionals, such as registered nurses and physical therapists, practice. Alternative medicine means treatments that you use instead of standard ones. Complementary medicine means nonstandard treatments that you use along with standard ones. Examples of CAM therapies are acupuncture, chiropractic, and herbal medicines.

CAM treatments do not work for everyone, but some methods such as acupuncture might help with nausea, pain and other side effects of cancer treatment. In general, researchers know more about the safety and effectiveness of standard cancer treatments than they do about CAM. To make sure nothing gets in the way of your cancer care, talk to your doctor before you try anything new.

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