In simplest terms, cancer refers to abnormal cell division that affects healthy tissue in other parts of the body. More than 100 different types of cancer exist. They are broken down into five main categories.
- Carcinoma: originates in the skin or in the tissues that line organs
- Sarcoma: stems from nerves, muscle, bone, cartilage, fat, tendons, blood vessels or other connective tissue
- Leukemia: begins in bone marrow, which produces blood cells
- Lymphoma/myeloma: originates in immune system cells
- Central nervous system cancers: stems from brain tissue and the spinal cord
While an exact cause remains unknown, the American Cancer Society
recognizes certain risk factors associated with cancer.
- Having a family history of a certain type of cancer
- Tobacco and alcohol use
- Unhealthy diet/physical inactivity
- Radiation exposure
Most common cancers in the U.S.
- Colorectal cancer: This encompasses cancer that's detected in either the colon or the rectum. Together, they are called colorectal cancer. It is the third most prevalent cancer in the nation. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that one in 20 people will develop it in their lifetime. Staying on top of regular colonoscopies is the best defense against the disease.
- Breast cancer: This type of cancer is the second leading cause of death among women. Approximately one in every eight women will be diagnosed at some point in her life. Regular mammograms are key in catching breast cancer early, which significantly increases the chance of survival. Experts also recommend that women conduct their own monthly self-checks.
- Lung cancer: This is at the top of the list as the number one cancer death for both men and women. Smoking greatly increases the odds of being diagnosed with it. In fact, smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer when compared to non-smokers, according to the CDC.
- Melanoma: This type of cancer is actually one of the most curable forms. Even so, it's also one of the deadliest. Over the last 30 years, melanoma cases have been steadily on the rise. The disease begins in melanocytes (the skin cells that produce melanin). In most cases, these cancerous moles are found on the face, chest, back, legs and neck.
Experts say that many cancer cases can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices and staying on top of regular screenings. According to the Prevent Cancer Foundation, cancers of the breast, cervix, colon/rectum, lungs, mouth, prostate, skin and testicles are all preventable cancers.
Common treatment options include:
- Chemotherapy: This is a systemic approach whereby cancer-killing drugs are distributed throughout the entire body.
- Radiation: This can be administered on its own or along with chemotherapy and/or surgery. It works by killing cancer cells via high-energy particles.
- Targeted therapies: This approach is considered less damaging to a person’s healthy cells than chemotherapy or radiation, and is thought to have fewer side effects. It works by disrupting cellular processes.
- Transplantation: For some, bone marrow or stem cell transplantation can help fight cancer. Doing this restores the cells that have been damaged or killed by radiation or chemo.
- Other treatments: Other developmental cancer treatments include laser therapy, cryosurgery, photodynamic therapy and biological therapy.