Southern Cancer Center believes knowing more about your disease can help you cope with your diagnosis. From basic information about cancer and its causes to more in-depth information – such as staging and treatment options – you’ll find it here. Read more by clicking on a specific cancer type below.
Leukemias are cancers of white blood cells that occur in the blood and bone marrow. When leukemia develops, the bone marrow makes too many abnormal white blood cells, crowding out any existing healthy blood cells. Leukemias are categorized into two groups: acute (faster growing) and chronic (slower growing).
Lymphomas are blood cancers that develop in the immune system, more specifically in the lymphatic system- part of the body’s germ-fighting network and includes lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. It’s not clear what causes lymphoma, but it begins when a disease-fighting white blood cell called a lymphocyte develops a genetic mutation.This mutation tells the lymphocyte cell to multiply rapidly, creating more and more mutated cells. The mutation also allows the mutated cells to go on living when normal cells would normally die. This results in a collection of too many diseased and infected lymphocytes in the lymph nodes, causing the lymph nodes to swell.
Myeloma is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell that helps the body recognize and attack germs. An abnormal plasma cell, also called a myeloma cell, will multiply and divide creating more abnormal plasma cells. These myeloma cells collect in bone barrow and begin to damage the solid part of the bone. When myeloma cells affect several bones in the body, the disease is called multiple myeloma.
Multiple myeloma can cause other problems such as bone fractures and legions, damage to kidneys and other organs, suppression of the immune system and anemia. Symptoms of multiple myeloma can vary and may not be apparent in the early stages of the disease. When signs and symptoms do appear, they can include: bone pain, especially in the spine or chest; nausea; constipation; loss of appetite; mental fogginess or confusion; fatigue; frequent infections; unexplained weight loss; weakness or numbness in the legs; excessive thirst.
Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men, less common in women, and it affects 80,000 adults in the United States each year. Bladder cancer most often begins in the lining of the bladder and usually affects older adults, but it can happen at any age. On average, 7 out of every 10 bladder cancers diagnosed start out at an early stage, when this disease is highly treatable. However, even early-stage bladder cancer may relapse in the bladder. For this reason, people with bladder cancer typically need follow-up tests for years after treatment to look for any reoccurrence or advances to a higher stage.
A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in your brain. Many different types of brain tumors exist and those that are cancerous are referred to as malignant. Brain cancer may either begin in your brain or begin in other parts of your body and spread to your brain. This difference is known as primary vs. secondary (metastatic) brain tumors.
The growth rate of brain cancer varies greatly, and along with its location, the tumor’s growth will determine how it affects the function of your nervous system. To diagnose a brain tumor as cancer, several tests and producers may be performed. A neurological exam may be used to check vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes; or imaging tests such as MRI, CT and PET. A biopsy will be performed in some cases to collect a sample of abnormal tissue for further testing.
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in this country, affecting 1 in 8 during their lifetime. Men can still be affected by this disease, but it is far less common. For women, an average of 260,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, along with 63,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. Men will see around 2,500 new cases annually.
Symptoms of breast cancer come in a wide variety, so it’s important for women to know the warning signs and speak with their doctor over any concerns. Although some cancer-like symptoms may be the result of a cyst, infection or other non-cancerous condition, women should still take all symptoms seriously and contact their physician.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. There are 13,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer each year in the United States, but cervical pre-cancers are diagnosed far more often. Most cases of this cancer tend to occur during midlife when women are between the ages of 35 and 44.
Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the colon or rectum, both parts of the large intestine in the lower part of the body’s digestive system. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States, accounting for 97,000 new cases of colon cancer and 43,000 new cases of rectal cancer annually. As preventative measures such as colonoscopies become more commonly used to detect colorectal cancer in its early stages, deaths from the disease continue to decline.
Colorectal cancer often begins as a growth called a polyp, which may form on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. Some polyps can become cancer over time, but not all polyps do. The chance of a polyp changing into cancer depends on the type of polyp it is. Adenomatous polyps (adenomas) are referred to as “pre-cancerous” because they sometimes change into cancer. Hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps are more common, but typically are not pre-cancerous and do not turn into cancer.
Head and neck cancer is a broad category of cancers that occur in the head and neck region, including inside the mouth, the nose and the throat. These cancers account for about 4% of all cancers in the United States, or 65,000 new cases annually.
Kidney cancer, or renal cancer, is a type of cancer that starts in the kidneys, two bean-shaped organs located behind the abdominal organs with one located on each side of the spine. Nearly 63,000 new cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed in this country each year, with the average age of diagnosis at 64 years old. In adults, Renal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer, accounting for nearly 90% of all cases. Young children are more likely to develop a type of kidney cancer called Wilms’ Tumor.
Kidney cancer rarely causes signs or symptoms in its early stages, and unfortunately there no routine screenings available for prevention. Later stages may produce signs and symptoms such as blood in the urine, persistent side or back pain, loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ, sitting in the upper right portion of the abdomen beneath the diaphragm and above the stomach. Primary liver cancer, meaning cancer that began in the liver, accounts for 42,000 new cases in the United States annually.
Several types of cancer can form in the liver, however not all cancers that affect the liver are considered liver cancer. Cancer that begins in another area of the body, such as in the colon or breast, and then spreads to the liver is called metastatic cancer rather than liver cancer. This type of cancer is named after the organ in which it began; for example, metastatic colon cancer describes cancer that begins in the colon and spreads to the liver. Cancer that spreads to the liver is more common than cancer that initially begins in the liver cells.
Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs, the two spongy organs in the chest that take in oxygen during inhale and release carbon dioxide during exhale. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer for men and women, accounting for 14% of all new cancer cases in this country or 235,000 new patients annually. It is also the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, among both men and women, claiming more lives than colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers combined.
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries, part of the female reproductive system that produces reproductive eggs and the female hormones of estrogen and progesterone. This year an estimated 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States.
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. Some of the more common signs and symptoms include: abdominal bloating or swelling; quickly feeling full when eating; unexplained weight loss; discomfort in the pelvis area; changes in bowel habits, such as constipation; a frequent need to urinate. Other less common symptoms include: fatigue; upset stomach; back pain; pain during sex; menstrual changes. However, these less common symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions since they occur quite often in women without ovarian cancer.
Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of the pancreas, an organ in the abdomen that lies horizontally behind the lower part of the stomach. This cancer typically spreads rapidly to nearby organs and is seldom detected in its early stages. An estimated 55,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States this year.
Signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer usually don’t occur until the disease is advanced, but some of these signs include: pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to the back; loss of appetite or unintended weight loss; dark urine or light-colored stool; depression; new-onset diabetes; blood clots; yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice).
Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate, a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men, affecting 165,000 men in the United States annually. Usually prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly. Prostate cancer that’s detected early, when it’s still confined to the prostate gland, has a better chance of successful treatment.
Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages, but in more advanced cases signs and symptoms can be trouble urinating; decreased force in the stream of urine; blood in semen; discomfort in the pelvic area; bone pain; and erectile dysfunction.
Sarcoma is a type of cancer that can occur in various locations in your body. It is the general term for a broad group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the connective tissues (also called soft tissues). Therefore, sarcomas are mostly categorized into two large groups as either bone sarcomas or soft tissue sarcomas. Treatments for sarcomas vary depending on sarcoma type, location and other factors.
Skin cancer, the abnormal growth of skin cells, is the most common type of cancer among both men and women and is diagnosed more than all other cancers combined. Nearly 6 million people will be diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer this year in the United States, while an additional 180,000 will be diagnosed with melanoma. There are three major types of skin cancer- basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women. But it can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day including palms, beneath the fingernails or toenails, and the genital area. Skin cancer affects people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions. When melanoma occurs in people with dark skin tones, it’s more likely to occur in areas not normally exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Thyroid cancer occurs in the cells of the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. Nearly 54,000 cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, with 3 out of 4 cases being in women. The chance of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer has risen in recent years, and much of this rise appears to be the result of the increased use of thyroid ultrasounds, which can detect small thyroid nodules that might not otherwise have been found in the past.
Thyroid cancer typically doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms early in the disease. As thyroid cancer grows, it may cause a lump that can be felt through the skin on the neck; changes to voice, including increasing hoarseness; difficulty swallowing; pain in the neck and throat; or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.