Types of Cancer
Kathryn E. Vinson, MS, CCRC
Top 7 Types of Cancer in 2018 – A while back, in “The Single Cure Myth” we talked about how there isn’t likely to be a single cure for all cancers, as cancer isn’t one disease, but a group of hundreds of diseases with as many varied causes. To complicate that – what we think of as one type of cancer may have many subtypes. With that being said, let’s take some time today to talk about what cancer actually is, and the seven most common types of cancer that will account for over 1 million diagnoses in the US in 2018.
What is cancer?
Okay – so why do I say that cancer isn’t a single disease? Cancer describes a disease process in which our cells divide in a manner that is either too fast, in an incorrect manner from a physical standpoint (meaning that the cells look different under the microscope), or both. Not only is breast cancer different from lung cancer which is different from thyroid cancer – there are different types of cancers within each category that must be treated differently. Here is an example – I had two different types of thyroid cancer – papillary and follicular – but there is also anaplastic and medullary. Each one of these diseases have different symptoms, treatments, and survival rates.
Types of Cancer
The National Cancer Institute has developed a list of the most common cancers in 2018 based on the number of cases expected to be diagnosed in a given year. By far, the most common type of cancer diagnosed is breast cancer, with an estimated 268,670 diagnoses expected in 2018 in the US. To be considered a common cancer – there must be at least 40,000 diagnoses each year.
Breast cancers may be one of the best known cancers ever, and its no wonder when it is the most common type of cancer out there. With 266,120 cases diagnosed in women and an additional 2,550 cases in men, it draws a great amount of attention in the media, fundraising efforts, and research initiatives alike. Breast cancer can be broken down into many subtypes:
- Ductal Carcinomas – these can be both invasive and non-invasive. As it sounds, these cancers begin in the milk ducts. If the cancer has not spread beyond the duct, it is considered Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. Invasive ductal carcinomas (IDCs) have spread and have even more subtypes – tubular, medullary, mucinous, papillary, and cribiform. IDCs account for 80% of breast cancers.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma – in this type of breast cancer, the cancer begins in the part of the breast that produces milk. It is the second most common type of breast cancer, accounting for 10% of diagnoses.
- Inflammatory breast cancer – one of the most rare forms of breast cancer (only about 1% of cases), but one of the most aggressive, it is a cancer that is truly terrifying. It can start looking like a simple reddening or swelling, rather than the lumps we are trained to look for. org tells us that this monster can spread within days or even hours.
The second most common group of cancers in the US are those originating in the lungs and bronchus, accounting for 234,030 diagnoses and over 150,000 deaths anticipated in 2018. There are three main types of lung cancer: non-small cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and lung carcinoid tumors. Non-small cell lung cancer is by far the most common type of lung caner and can be further broken down into squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.
Smoking is by far the greatest risk factor for the development of lung cancer and is thought to be a factor in about 80% of all lung cancer deaths.
With almost 165,000 cases of prostate cancer expected to be diagnosed and 29,430 deaths projected in 2018, we can see why screening for this disease is so vital. Prostate cancer is another type of cancer with many subtypes. By far, the most common type is adenocarcinoma, but there are also sarcomas, neuroendocrine tumors, small cell carcinomas, and transitional cell carcinomas. When prostate cancer is found at what is considered a local stage (meaning that it has not grown outside the prostate), survival rates are almost 100%! So, gentlemen – get in and get checked according to your physician’s recommendations! Some interesting facts about risk factors and a deeper look at survival rates can be found in “Opening Up About Prostate Cancer.”
Colorectal cancer is actually two different types of cancer, colon cancer and rectal cancer, but are often categorized together given the proximity of the anatomy. The American Cancer Society projects that there will be 140,250 new cases of the disease this year, with over 50,000 deaths. This common type of cancer has a very high five-year survival rate when found in its early stages, as many times the cancer can be removed completely with surgery. Increased screening rates over the last forty years have been largely responsible for the increased survival rates seen over that period. Just like with prostate cancer, we implore you to have your screening per your doctor’s recommendations. It may not be the most pleasant of procedures, but it could save your life!
Melanoma is a type of cancer that is highly preventable. How you ask? By taking care of your skin. Sadly, there will be more than 90,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed in the US this year. There are other predispositions to this type of cancer, for more information on these factors, please take a look at “Estrogen Receptors Linked to Increased Melanoma Survival.” Much like prostate cancer – screening is key. If you have leisions on your body that are oddly shaped, raised, rough, or oddly colored, please see your physician immediately. If you are unsure of what to look for, as your doctor. He or she can help you by performing at “spot check” and teaching you how to check yourself.
Earlier this year when I was doing some research on bladder cancer, I was blown away to find out that smoking is the number one risk factor for the development of bladder cancer. You can read more on that in “Smoking and Bladder Cancer.” Bladder cancer rounds out the top 5 list of the most common types of cancer, with an estimated 81,190 new cases this year. Symptoms of bladder cancer can be similar to those of a urinary tract infection – blood in the urine, pain while urinating, and changes in urinary frequency. If you are experiencing these symptoms, make sure to see your doctor, especially if they recur.
The seventh most common type of cancer is non-Hodgkin Lymphoma with almost 75,000 new cases this year. You may remember in “Perspectives of a Stem Cell Donor” my mother and I shared with you reflections and thoughts about my aunt’s (her baby sister) fight with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. As with the other cancers mentioned above, there are several classifications for NHL, depending upon whether it is derived from T-cells or B-cells, and whether it is considered “aggressive” or “indolent”. All of these factors go into the prognosis of patients diagnosed with NHL. Treatments for NHL have come a long way since the early 1990’s when my aunt was sick. Immunotherapy has helped transform this area of cancer treatment.
Knowledge is power my dear friends. The best way to protect ourselves against cancer is to know our risk factors, live a healthy lifestyle, and to follow our doctor’s recommendations for screenings.
As always, much love, many prayers, and abundant blessings to all of the warriors out there!