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.
Colorectal cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the colon and/or rectum.
Together, the colon and rectum make up the large intestine. The large intestine carries waste from the small intestine and eliminates it through the anus.
Adrenocortical carcinomais a cancer of the adrenal gland. The condition is also called cancer of the adrenal cortex, adrenal cortical cancer, or adrenocortical cancer. This cancer is very rare.
The adrenal gland is a small organ above the kidney. It makes important hormones. There are two adrenal glands in the body. One sits on top of each kidney. Adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system. Your endocrine system helps regulate body activities.
Adrenocortical carcinoma develops in the outer layer of the adrenal gland. This layer is called the cortex. It produces hormones that
help control blood pressure
balance water and salt in the body
help manage the body's use of protein, fat, and carbohydrates
cause a person to have male or female characteristics.
Adrenocortical cancer can spread to other parts of the body including the lungs, liver, or bones.
Small lumps on the adrenal gland are not uncommon. They are usually benign (noncancerous) growths called adrenal adenomas. In some cases, doctors may have trouble distinguishing an adenoma from a cancer, so you may need special testing or repeat examinations.
Another type of adrenal gland tumor, called a pheochromocytoma, can develop in the inner part of the gland, or adrenal medulla. However, this article will only discuss cancers that arise in the adrenal cortex.
Glioblastoma multiforme is a fast-growing brain or spinal cord tumor. It affects the brain more often than the spinal cord. These tumors grow from glial cells which form the (supportive) tissue of the brain and spinal cord. Glioblastoma multiforme is also called glioblastoma, grade IV astrocytoma, or GBM.
As it grows, a brain tumor can press against or damage nerves or other structures. This can interfere with the brain's normal functioning. For example, a brain tumor can disrupt:
Scientists do not know what causes most brain tumors. However, they are working to better understand the biology of glioblastoma multiforme and identify possible environmental, occupational, family, and genetic risk factors.
A metastatic brain tumor is cancer that has spread (metastasized) from another part of the body to the brain. It is also called a secondary tumor, lesion or brain metastasis (plural: metastases). In contrast, a primary brain tumor starts in the brain, not in another part of the body.
A tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue. It occurs when cells divide more than they should or don't die when they should.
Cancers that spread to the brain can originate in any part of the body. The original tumor is called the primary tumor. Metastatic brain tumors most commonly originate in the lung, breast, skin, colon, and kidney. A very aggressive form of skin cancer called melanoma often spreads to the brain.
Brain metastases occur when cancer cells break away from a primary tumor. They travel to the brain, usually through the bloodstream. These cancer cells may settle in the brain and continue growing. Sometimes only one secondary brain tumor occurs. But in many cases there are multiple lesions.
The brain is a complex organ enclosed in the skull. Among other things, it serves as the body's center of
Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) is a rare, slow-growing cancer. It is a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. WM is also known as lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma.
WM begins in the immune system. It starts in white blood cells called B lymphocytes (B cells). B cells play a key role in the body's immune system. Some B cells develop into plasma cells. Plasma cells make antibodies (also called immunoglobulins). Antibodies help the body attack bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances.
Sometimes B cells become cancerous before turning into mature plasma cells. These abnormal B cells multiply out of control. They produce large amounts of IgM antibody (immunoglobulin M). High levels of IgM can cause a person's blood to thicken. This makes it harder for blood to flow through the body. (Multiple myeloma, another form of cancer of plasma cells, causes similar abnormalities. The type of immunoglobulin the cells produce helps distinguish one from the other.)
As they grow out of control, lymphoma cells can crowd out the cells that normally develop into healthy blood cells. This can lead to low numbers of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Low levels of these blood cells trigger many of the symptoms associated with WM.
The cells involved in WM grow mostly in the bone marrow. The bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue inside most bones.
WM mainly affects older adults. It is not curable, but it is usually treatable.
Parathyroid cancer is a very rare cancer that develops in the parathyroid glands. A pair of these pea-sized glands sits next to the thyroid on either side of the front of the neck.
The four parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone (PTH). This chemical
raises calcium levels in the blood by forcing the bones to release calcium
stimulates the intestines to absorb more calcium from food
signals the kidneys to withhold calcium from the urine.
Healthy parathyroid glands adjust their production of PTH to keep blood calcium levels within a normal range.
When parathyroid cells become cancerous, they multiply out of control. They usually form a firm, grayish-white tumor. The tumor can invade the thyroid gland and neck muscles.
As the cancerous cells grow, they usually produce too much PTH. This causes abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia). PTH can get so high that the bones pour out too much calcium. This can cause bone pain and lead to osteoporosis (thin, brittle bones).
Elevated levels of PTH also force the kidneys to retain large amounts of calcium, triggering the formation of kidney stones. Very high calcium can also cause kidney damage, dehydration, and confusion.
Parathyroid cancer usually occurs in adults in their 50s and 60s. Because it is so rare, researchers have not determined whether specific environmental or lifestyle factors increase the risk of this cancer. Some cases seem to have a genetic link, with several generations of a single family affected.
Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing and dividing. Chemotherapy drugs are also called anti-cancer drugs.
Chemotherapy drugs can shrink or limit the size of cancerous tumors. They may also prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.
There are more than 80 anti-cancer drugs. Cancer treatment often requires a combination of two or more different drugs. Cancer specialists design chemotherapy plans based on the cancer being treated and how far the cancer has spread.
Squamous cells are small, flat skin cells in the outer layer of skin. When these cells become cancerous, they typically develop into flat or raised, rounded skin tumors. Sometimes the skin around the tumors gets red and swollen.
Most cases of squamous cell carcinoma occur in people who have spent lots of time in the sun—especially those with fair skin and blue eyes. Some cases develop on skin that has been injured or exposed to cancer-causing agents.
Radiation therapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses an intense form of energy, called ionizing radiation, to damage or destroy cancer cells. Ionizing radiation harms cancer cells' genetic material. This kills the cells or interferes with their ability to grow and multiply. Normal cells near a tumor can be damaged as well. However, normal cells can repair any damaged genetic material, so they often recover and survive. Cancer cells generally can't make such repairs, so they die.
Radiation therapy can be given externally in the form of x-ray beams, gamma rays, or beams of subatomic particles such as protons. Treatment with external radiation is usually painless and takes five to 15 minutes per session. The number of treatments varies for each person. In some cases, therapy may take place almost every day for several weeks.
Radiation also can be delivered internally. Radioactive substances are either placed inside a body cavity or implanted inside the tumor itself.
Oral cancer is cancer anywhere in the front of the mouth. It includes any cancer on the lips, tongue, inside surface of the cheeks, hard palate (the front of the roof of the mouth), or gums. Cancers in the back of the mouth, such as on the soft palate (the back of the roof of the mouth) or the back of the throat, are not considered oral cancer. Oral cancer is a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, in which surface cells grow and divide in an uncontrolled way.