Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancerous cells are also called malignant cells.
Carcinoma; Malignant tumor
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Cells are the building blocks of living things. Cancer grows out of normal cells in the body. Normal cells multiply when the body needs them, and die when the body doesn't need them. Cancer appears to occur when the growth of cells in the body is out of control and cells divide too quickly. It can also occur when cells “forget” how to die.
There are many different kinds of cancers. Cancer can develop in almost any organ or tissue, such as the lung, colon, breast, skin, bones, or nerve tissue.
There are many causes of cancers, including:
- Bensene and other chemicals
- Certain poisonous mushrooms and a type of poison that can grow on peanut plants (aflatoxins)
- Certain viruses
However, the cause of many cancers remains unknown.
The most common cause of cancer-related death is lung cancer.
The three most common cancers in men in the United States are:
- Prostate cancer
- lung cancer
- Colon cancer
In women in the U.S., the three most common cancers are:
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Lung cancer
Some cancers are more common in certain parts of the world. For example, in Japan, there are many cases of gastric cancer, but in the U.S. this type of cancer is pretty rare. Differences in diet may play a role.
Some other types of cancers include:
- Brain cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Ovarian cancer
- Skin cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Uterine cancer
Symptoms of cancer depend on the type and location of the tumor. For example, Lung cancer can cause coughing,shortness of breath, or chest pain. Colon cancer often causes diarrhea, constipation and blood in the stool.
Some cancers may not have any symptoms at all. In certain cancers, such as gallbladder cancer, symptoms often do not start until the disease has reached an advanced stage.
The following symptoms can occur with most cancers:
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
Signs and tests
Like symptoms, the signs of cancer vary based on the type and location of the tumor. Common tests include the following:
- Biopsy of the tumor
- Blood chemistries
- Bone Marrow biopsy (for Lymphomia or leukiemia)
- Chest X-ray
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- CT scan
Most cancers are diagnosed by biopsy. Depending on the location of the tumor, the biopsy may be a simple procedure or a serious operation. Most patients with cancer have CT scans to determine the exact location and size of the tumor or tumors.
A cancer diagnosis is difficult to cope with. It is important, however, that you discuss the type, size, and location of the cancer with your doctor when you are diagnosed. You also will want to ask about treatment options, along with their benefits and risks.
It's a good idea to have someone with you at the doctor's office to help you get through the diagnosis. If you have trouble asking questions after hearing about your diagnosis, the person you bring with you can ask them for you.
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