Cancer

Cancer is the catchall term applied to diseases caused by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Cancer isn't one disease. It is many different diseases, more than 100 and counting.

Each kind of cancer is usually named for the cell type in which it begins — cancer that starts in a lung is called lung cancer; cancer that starts in pigment cells in the skin, which are known as melanocytes, is called melanoma.

When detected and treated early, cancer can often be stopped. That said, cancer is a leading cause of death and disability around the world.

Cancer Articles

Pancreatic cancer: Symptoms, treatment, and prevention

Hard to detect and quick to spread, pancreatic cancer is among the deadliest of cancers. Scientists hope that genetic research will make it more like other cancers-a treatable disease. But even if it's caught while confined to the pancreas-and it rarely is-just 16% of patients are alive five years after the initial diagnosis. By comparison, the five-year survival rate for localized breast cancer is 86%. If the cancer has spread beyond the pancreas, the likelihood of living another five years is just 2%. Only the statistics for liver cancer are as grim. Fortunately, pancreatic cancer is uncommon compared with other major cancers. About 50,000 new cases are diagnosed every year in the United States, in contrast to about 250,000 new cases of breast cancer, and 225,000 new cases of lung cancer. But because it's so untreatable, pancreatic cancer causes about 40,000 deaths each year. It is the 4th leading cause of cancer death. No one knows exactly what causes pancreatic cancer. Like many cancers, it's an older person's disease - the median age at diagnosis is 71. Because Americans are living longer, there are more cases now than a half-century ago. Pancreatic cancer does run in families. Former President Jimmy Carter's father, brother, and two sisters died of the disease. Familial cases account for 5%-15% of the total. More »

Testosterone, prostate cancer, and balding: Is there a link?

We can thank the Greeks for the name doctors apply to male hormones. Androgen comes from the words meaning "man-maker," and it's a well-chosen term. Testosterone is the most potent androgen, and it does make the man. It's responsible for the deep voice, increased muscle mass, and strong bones that characterize the gender, and it also stimulates the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow. In addition, testosterone has crucial, if incompletely understood, effects on male behavior. It contributes to aggression, and it's essential for the libido or sex drive, as well as for normal erections and sexual performance. Testosterone stimulates the growth of the genitals at puberty, and it is one of the factors required for sperm production throughout adult life. Finally, testosterone also acts on the liver. Normal amounts are harmless, but high doses can cause liver disease and boost the production of LDL ("bad") cholesterol while lowering the amount of HDL ("good") cholesterol. More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - After Hodgkin's Disease Treatment

Have you had fevers, heavy sweating at night, weight loss, itchy skin, or swollen lymph nodes? Do you have pain in any of your bones? Do you have a cough? Are you fatigued? Do you get lightheaded? Do you bruise easily or have nosebleeds? Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? Have you had any recent infections? Do you have a cough? Do you have sinus congestion? Do you have nasal discharge? Do you know when to seek medical attention for signs of infection? Do you know that you still need to practice birth control (both men and women)? Infertility is uncommon with newer chemotherapy regimens. If you are a woman and have undergone early menopause, have you considered hormone replacement therapy? Are you short of breath at rest or with minimal exertion? Do you get chest pain or pressure with exertion? Do you have swelling in your legs? Do you know that chemotherapy and radiation can increase your risk of developing certain other cancers? Are you up-to-date on all of your cancer screening tests? If you are a woman, have you discussed the need for regular mammograms and breast examinations with your doctor? Are you gaining weight? Are you constipated? Are you always cold? Do you have dry skin? Neck veins Heart Lungs Abdomen (for enlargement or tenderness of the liver or spleen) Bones and spine (looking for areas of tenderness) Skin (looking for skin cancers) Lymph Nodes (neck, axilla, elbow, groin) Blood tests for complete blood counts, kidney and liver function tests CT scans of the chest and abdomen   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Colonic Polyps

Do you have a family history of colonic polyps? Do you have bleeding from the rectum or bloody stools? Do you frequently have rectal pain or the sensation of needing to have a bowel movement? Do you have anemia (low blood count)? Do you have a family history of colon cancer? Abdominal exam Rectal exam Stool testing for blood Complete blood count Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, possibly with a biopsy or removal of a polyp (if one is found)   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Multiple Myeloma

Have you had any recent infections? Do you know when to call your doctor with symptoms of infection? Do you have pain in any of your bones? If so, is it constant, or does it occur only when you move? Have you had any recent fractures? Do you have pain in your spine? Does it radiate to another part of your body? Have you noticed a decrease in sensation or strength in your hands or feet? Have you had loss of bladder or bowel control? Do you know when to seek medical attention for back pain? Have you been fatigued? Have you been lightheaded? Have you been short of breath with minimal exertion? Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? Do you bruise easily, or get nosebleeds? Have you been weak, nauseated, constipated, or confused? Have you had a headache or a change in your vision? Can you feel any lumps or masses under your skin? Are you aware of the possible complications that can develop from multiple myeloma? Do you know which symptoms should cause you to call your doctor? Skin Heart Lungs Arms and legs Spine Neurology examination (to check for strength and sensation in your hands and feet) Lymph nodes (neck, axilla, and groin) Blood tests for complete blood count, electrolytes, kidney function, uric acid, calcium, and beta-2 microglobulin Serum protein electrophoresis or SPEP Urine protein electrophoresis or UPEP Quantitative immunoglobulin levels in the urine and blood Immunoelectrophoresis 24-hour urine collection for protein Bone marrow biopsy Skeletal radiographs CT scan MRI scan   More »

Low-tar cigarettes are not a safer choice

Studies show smoking high-tar unfiltered cigarettes, as opposed to medium-tar filtered cigarettes, greatly increases your risk of lung cancer. So, cigarettes labeled as low-tar or ultra light are an even safer choice, right? Wrong. A study comparing the lung cancer risks of different types of cigarettes found this seemingly logical assumption is false. The study six years and involved over 900,000 Americans over the age of 30. The researchers compared the risk of death from lung cancer among men and women who were smokers, former smokers, or had never smoked. When analyzed according to the tar rating of cigarette smoked, the results of the study showed the risk of lung cancer death was greatest for smokers of high-tar unfiltered cigarettes. The risk of lung cancer death was no different among smokers of medium-, low-, and very low-tar cigarettes. These findings do not come as a complete surprise to researchers. A previous study showed smokers of low-tar cigarettes compensate for the decrease in tar level by changing their inhalation pattern. By blocking ventilation holes in the filter, increasing the drag time, holding the puff longer and deeper, or smoking more cigarettes, addicted smokers may maintain their nicotine intake (and exposure to carcinogens) with low-tar cigarettes. More »