It’s a somewhat unnerving statistic to be sure, but about one of every three Americans will develop some form of cancer during his or her lifetime. Cancer also happens to be the second leading cause of death in America, kept from the top spot only by heart disease.
Regardless of these grim facts, doctors today have made great progress in the treatment and in some cases, elimination of these terrible diseases. In many cases, the best way to treat cancer is to diagnose and prevent it from the onset, and we’re here to help you do just that.
It is estimated that more than 11 million people in the United States have some form of cancer. That’s a daunting number even with 325.7 million people in the country. It is for this reason that we’re discussing the most common forms of cancer and arming people with information on not only how to spot symptoms, but what to do once those symptoms are spotted.
Be prepared for a worrying statistic. This year alone, around 1.4 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. Even more troubling is the fact that more than 565,000 people will die of the diseases in the same year. Here’s one good statistic though: experts believe that 60 percent of America’s cancer deaths can be avoided.
Very recently, a study found that cancer was the number two cause of death in the United States, creeping in just behind heart disease. In truth though, most of those cancer deaths happened indirectly, by way of the conventional treatments of cancer (chemo, radiation and surgery) inadvertently exacerbating things.
All types of cancer share common markers. This means that cancer cells, which look different from other healthy cells, possess unique characteristics discernible by oncologists and other such experts. These markers include damaged or mutated cells, rapid cell multiplication, and the ability of these damaged cells to spread throughout the body.
As stated earlier, there are far too many forms of cancer to name them all here. The 14 types of cancer represented here are the major types, those which are most commonly found and diagnosed. However, there are many other rare forms of cancer the affect a lesser percentage of the population.
The first cancer is one of several types of cancer that affect skin cells. Non-melanoma skin cancer affects more than 1 million people a year and generally presents itself in skin that has had exposure to the sun. Like all cancer, it can affect everyone, but usually affects older people or people with compromised immune systems.
Melanoma, on the other hand, allegedly affects 68,720 people and is most commonly found in moles. It’s named for the parts of the body that contain melanocyte cells, those that produce brown pigment, but can be found in other pigmented cells like those in the intestines or even the eyes. Both these skin cancers are treatable and are among the easiest to spot, though they can spread easily.
Lung cancer strikes at the cells inside the lining of the lungs. There are two primary forms of lung cancer, though both are deadly if found too late. Small cell is named for the small round cancer cells that can be viewed in a microscope. Non-small cell lung cancer cells are slightly larger. Every year, both these types of cancer combined claim nearly 160,000 lives.
As expected, breast cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women. However, that’s not to say men can’t be diagnosed as well. In fact, there are about 1,900 men diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Treatment for breast cancer usually involves removing the offending breast tissue and tumor, combined with chemotherapy and radiation to halt the spread.
Unlike breast cancer, which can affect both men and women, prostate cancer only affects men. More than 190,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually. Most of these cases affect men over the age of 50. Prostate cancer develops in the tissues inside the prostate gland, near the rectum. Because of this location, near the colon, it is one of the more spreadable and dangerous cancers.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is cervical cancer, which can only affect women; but women of all ages. It accounts for more than 260,000 deaths worldwide, 4,000 of them in the US alone. The cervix is located at the lower end of the uterus which opens into the upper portion of the vaginal canal. It is recommended that women visit the gynecologist and get checked regularly for these cancerous cells.
The colon is part of the large intestine and helps us break down and digest food. At the end of this long, hard-working tube is the rectum. Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, many too late. It usually affects folks over 50 and can spread quickly, which is why doctors recommend annual colonoscopies after celebrating your 50th birthday.
In 2015, liver cancer claimed the lives of 788,000 people worldwide. The liver is responsible for filtering the blood and food we eat. Since the liver processes all of our blood, it can, therefore, be visited by cancer cells if there is cancer elsewhere in the body. Many cancers that spread to the liver end up being fatal.
Like any other organ, the bladder can be affected by cancer cells that develop within its tissues, which can be caused by high alcohol consumption — as can the liver and the kidneys. The most common type of cancer to affect the bladder is something called transitional cell carcinoma.
The kidneys also help filter out toxins from the blood and expel those toxins through urination. Cancer can form in the tissues of the kidney ducts, usually affecting people over the age of 40. There is one type of kidney tumor, however, called a “Wilms” tumor, that affects younger children specifically. More than 49,000 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year.
Esophageal cancer is commonly referred to as throat cancer, and it takes the lives of 400,000 people each year. If you smoke, drink heavily, or are obese, your chances of developing this life-changing cancer increases greatly. Treatment for this cancer can permanently damage your esophagus, larynx and windpipe.
There a number of cancers that affect the blood. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is one of them, and it affects more than 65,000 people annually. They call it lymphoma because it affects white blood cells, some of which are lymphocytes. There are dozens of different types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that affect people of all ages. The varying types and spreading of the disease can make it hard to treat.
Cancer in the Blood
Leukemia basically results in an overproduction of certain kinds of white blood cells. It can be a chronic, slow-growing type of cancer that often begins without being noticed. Unfortunately, once the symptoms begin, they progress rapidly. Because of these factors, leukemia is a difficult cancer to treat effectively.
There are four main types of leukemia or “blood cancer.” These types are acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and chronic myeloid leukemia. Many of these cancers form inside bone marrow or in other tissues that form blood cells and are hard to stop at the source because, well … we all need blood to live.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most advanced and deadliest cancers. It is usually undetected until the disease has reached an advanced state. It can present itself as abdominal pain, jaundice, or unexplained weight loss. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms are noticed, it may already be too late.
We have to be realistic about all of this, of course. As of yet, there is no catch-all cancer cure, no miracle drug that’s going to eradicate the millions of permutations of the disease. Nevertheless, while we wait for science to find that solution, we can still do a lot to protect ourselves; a great deal more than you might have believed possible.
Keeping An Eye Out
Many of you know this already, but the best thing one can do to prevent cancer is to make sure that you get regular check-ups, especially if you know there is a history of cancer in your family. Many of these check-ups include regular screening tests that can detect the disease before it shows any outward symptoms.
Screenings For All
Men and women should go for regular screening tests. Women should perform their own breast exams and men should examine their own testicles. This is to ensure that there aren’t any strange lumps of any kind. Skin cancer checks should be done early and often as well. All of these checks can be summed up in one handy acronym.
The American Cancer Society has developed an acronym for cancer prevention, which they call C.A.U.T.I.O.N. It stands for: Change in bowel or bladder habits, A sore that does not heal, Unusual bleeding or discharge, Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere, Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing, Obvious change in a wart or mole, and finally, Nagging cough or hoarseness.
Though this is hardly a faultless guide, it does accurately match many of the symptoms that one might feel if one was perhaps suffering from some form of cancer. Many of these are symptoms known to a majority of Americans, and that might be due in part to the fact that most Americans have known a friend or family member to have suffered through some form of cancer.
As we mentioned earlier, the best way for us to reduce our risk of cancer is to get diagnosed early. The earlier a doctor knows what’s wrong, the earlier they can begin treatment to head cancer off right from the start. The question you might be asking yourself now is, can you reduce the risk of cancer before any symptoms emerge? The answer is yes.
In 2005, a list of cancer risk factors was put together that identified the potential environmental causes of the diseases and what we could do to lower our risk. They are as follows: smoking and other tobacco use, alcohol consumption, obesity and diet, lack of exercise, carcinogens in the workplace, viruses, body size, women’s reproductive factors, pollution, poverty, excessive sun exposure, medical procedures, drugs, salt, food additives, contaminants, and family history.
What does this all mean for you when it comes to cancer prevention, especially when it comes to family history or a genetic predisposition to the disease? Evidence shows that only a small portion of cancers are inherited, the rest of these are things that you yourself can watch out for simply by being more mindful of your choices and environment.
Break Bad Habits
Smoking is bad for you, we all know this. Avoiding cancer starts with avoiding all forms of tobacco entirely, including exposure to secondhand smoke. Smoking has been linked to lung cancer and other respiratory cancers as well. As for other vices like drinking, limit yourself to no more than two drinks a day. Studies show excess alcohol can increase the risk of mouth, larynx, esophagus, liver, and colon cancer.
Keep Off The Weight
The next thing you can do to stave off cancer is to stay lean. Obesity isn’t just a main cause of heart disease, it also increases the risks of many forms of cancer. Burning calories with exercise not only helps keep the weight off, it actually helps everything else too. Weight isn’t the only factor though. What we eat has a marked effect on cancer development as well.
Though the tests are inconclusive, there are links between the excessive consumption of saturated fat and red meat, and the increased risk of both colon and prostate cancers. Deep fried and charbroiled foods should also be limited because carcinogens can attach themselves to them.
Only The Good Stuff
Not only does good fiber aid digestion, two 2003 studies found that high-fiber diets might actually help reduce the risk of colon cancer. Increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and good fats will also help to keep you healthy, fit, and full of the nutrients we need to stave off cancer.
This may seem like a no brainer, but one of the best ways to prevent cancer is to avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation. You can do this by checking your home for radon, which can cause lung cancer. Ultraviolet radiation, found in sunlight, has been linked to skin cancer for years. Protect yourself by not staying in the sun for too long and wearing sunscreen.
There are a few radiations we don’t have to worry so much about. These are electromagnetic radiation from high-voltage power lines and radio-frequency radiation from microwaves and cell phones. Despite what many people think, neither of these has been linked to causing cancer by the American Cancer Society.
While too much ultraviolet radiation is bad, getting extra amounts of Vitamin D is actually quite good for preventing cancer. Experts today recommend 800 to 1,000 IU a day, which can usually be attained by taking a Vitamin D supplement. Careful studies in recent years have shown that other vitamins, however, like vitamins C and E, folic acid, and multivitamins are not protective; some of them may even do more harm than good.
As much as we can, we should avoid exposure to any industrial toxins like asbestos, fibers, benzene, aromatic amines, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other such chemical compounds. It goes without saying that many of these compounds are not good for our bodies and may help form cancer cells.
A number of sexually transmitted diseases can also contribute to cancer. These are bad enough on their own and can come from sharing contaminated needles or exchanging fluids with the affected. It’s elementary of course, as nobody seeks out things like hepatitis viruses, HIV, and the human papillomavirus, but it’s still wise to remind everyone to be cautious.
There are actually a few tips that the American Cancer Society have thrown out there in regards to cancer prevention as well. Statistically, it has been proven that men who take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs appear to have a lower risk of colon cancer and in some cases, prostate cancer — when taken responsibly of course.
Ironically, cancer treatments themselves — chemotherapy, radiology, and immune suppression drugs — all have the potential side-effect of increasing the risk of additional cancers. So it’s better to keep up with the cancer prevention methods and not have to get to that point at all. Ultimately, staying healthy and avoiding things you ought to avoid anyway are some of the best ways to prevent cancer.
The Power of Understanding
The word cancer is a terrifying one, and whether you hear it about yourself, a friend, or a loved one, it remains just as terrifying, albeit in different ways. Regardless of that fact, the best way to approach the news is with knowledge. Doctors have been moving towards understanding cancer for years, and it’s through that knowledge that we learn to treat it, and perhaps one day, cure it.