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

Finding lung cancer early

Screening people for lung cancer ought to work. Lung cancer is common, relative to other cancers, so you're not looking for a needle in a haystack. If it's caught at a very early stage, it often can be treated effectively with surgery and even cured. Current and former smokers are easy to identify, so focusing on a high-risk group is pretty straightforward. And the technological means to spot suspicious growths and lesions in the lungs has existed for decades with chest x-rays and CT scans  Screening tests are supposed to find diseases before they cause symptoms, but that is just the means to an end. The goal is for fewer people to die from the disease. Several large, well-designed trials of chest x-rays have found that while they do a good job of identifying early lung cancers, that hasn't translated into fewer deaths because by the time an x-ray detects lung cancer it has almost always already spread to other parts of the body. CT scanning can spot lung cancer at an earlier stage than chest x-rays. But can they spot lung cancer early enough, before it has spread, and when it is still curable?  The jury has been out because of the size and design of studies that have been done so far. It takes a very large, well-designed study to get a reliable answer. More »

Red meat and colon cancer

A number of studies have shown a link between increased consumption of red meat and an increased risk of colon cancer. Dietary changes and regular exercise are the best options for reducing one's risk. More »

Certain symptoms may be early signs of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer has long been called a "silent killer," because symptoms are thought to develop only after the disease has reached an advanced stage and is largely incurable. But health experts have identified a set of physical complaints that often occur in women who have ovarian cancer and may be early warning signs. These symptoms are very common, and most women with them do not have ovarian cancer. But for the women who do, the hope is that greater awareness will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment. Four symptoms are more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than in women in the general population. These symptoms are bloating or increased abdominal size; pelvic or abdominal pain; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary frequency or urgency. The statement recommends that any woman who experiences one or more of these complaints almost daily for more than a few weeks should see a clinician for a pelvic exam. Pelvic exams that raise suspicions are usually followed up with a noninvasive test called transvaginal ultrasound and possibly a blood test for a marker called CA-125, which is sometimes elevated in women with ovarian cancer. The only way to diagnose ovarian cancer is during surgery, which is best performed by a gynecologic oncologist or other surgeon skilled in ovarian cancer. More »

Lung cancer: Not just for smokers

A small but significant percentage of lung cancer deaths occur in nonsmokers. Research suggests that they may get a different form of the disease than do smokers, one that may respond better to certain medications. More »

The cervical cancer vaccine

A vaccine aims to prevent cervical cancer by fighting the strains of human papillomavirus that cause it. The CDC recommends the vaccine be given before puberty, because it is more effective if received before exposure to HPV. More »

Recognizing and treating basal cell carcinoma

With summer around the corner, our thoughts and plans naturally turn to outdoor activities and the opportunity to bask in the warmth of the sun. But there's a dark side to the time we spend in the sun — it's called a tan. Despite its association with prosperity, good looks, and good health, a tan in reality is a sign that the sun has damaged the skin cells. For some people, such damage can result in skin cancer. The sun is the chief cause of more than 1.3 million skin cancers each year in the United States. There are three main types. Melanoma is probably the most familiar — not because it's common but because it's so deadly. It accounts for only 4% of skin cancers but 75% of skin cancer deaths. A second type, squamous cell carcinoma, occurs three times more often than melanoma. Although it's less serious, it can metastasize and cause extensive damage. About 3%–4% of people with squamous cell carcinoma die from the disease. By far the most common skin cancer, and the subject of this article, is basal cell (Locked) More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

Have you had fevers, chills, fatigue, or weight loss? Have you had any recent infections? Do you have a cough? Do you have sinus congestion? Do you know when to seek medical attention for infections? Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? Have you had nosebleeds or easy bruising? Do you get short of breath with minimal exertion? Are you lightheaded? Have you been unusually tired? Have you had abdominal pain or swelling? Have you noticed swollen lymph nodes? Lymph nodes (neck, axilla, groin) Heart Lungs Abdomen (for enlargement or tenderness of the liver or spleen) Complete blood count Routine blood chemistries Immunoglobulin levels Blood test for flow cytometry Bone marrow biopsy.   More »