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

Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the vagina (birth canal). Cancer that starts in the vagina is called primary vaginal cancer. Primary vaginal cancer is rare. More commonly, cancer cells in the vagina are from cancer that started somewhere else, such as the cervix. There are two main types of primary vaginal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. The vast majority of vaginal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers arise from the surface of the lining of the vagina. They usually develop slowly, most often in the upper part of the vagina near the cervix. This type of cancer typically affects women between 50 and 70 years old. Adenocarcinomas form in the glands in the vaginal wall. This type of cancer is much less common than squamous cell carcinoma. However, it is the most common type of vaginal cancer in women younger than 20 years old. Daughters of mothers who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant have a higher risk of developing this rare form of cancer. (DES, introduced in the 1940s to help prevent miscarriages, was banned in the United States in 1971.) Doctors recently identified vaginal lesions that are not cancerous. These lesions are called vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia, or VAIN. Having VAIN may make a woman more likely to develop cancer. VAIN is associated with human papilloma virus (HPV) infections. HPV infection can also lead to cervical, anal, and throat cancers. (Locked) More »

Biopsy of the Prostate and Transrectal Ultrasound

Your doctor is likely to recommend this test if you've had a rectal exam or blood tests that suggest that you might have prostate cancer. For this test, a urologist takes tissue samples from several places in your prostate, to be examined for cancer. A transrectal ultrasound helps the urologist see the prostate during the procedure. (Locked) More »

Lymph Node Biopsy

Lymph nodes are small balls of tissue that are part of the body's immune system. The nodes produce and harbor infection-fighting white blood cells (lymphocytes) that attack both infectious agents and cancer cells. Cancer, infection, and some other diseases can change the appearance of lymph nodes. For that reason, your doctor may ask a surgeon to remove lymph nodes, to be examined microscopically for evidence of these problems. Usually, one or more entire lymph nodes are removed and examined under the microscope by a pathologist. On occasion, the doctor does a needle biopsy to remove a portion of a lymph node to see whether a cancer already diagnosed has spread to that point. (Locked) More »

Skin Biopsy

Doctors take biopsies of areas that look abnormal and use them to detect cancer, precancerous cells, infections, and other conditions. For some biopsies, the doctor inserts a needle into the skin and draws out a sample; in other cases, tissue is removed during a surgical procedure. For this test, abnormal areas of skin are removed to test for cancer or other skin diseases. (Locked) More »

Bone Marrow Biopsy

Doctors can diagnose many problems that cause anemia, some infections, and some kinds of leukemia or lymphoma cancers by examining a sample of your bone marrow. Bone marrow is the tissue where blood cells are made. A bone marrow biopsy is the procedure to collect such a sample. It is done using a needle inserted through the outside surface of a bone and into the middle of the bone, where the marrow is. (Locked) More »

Bladder Cancer

This type of cancer occurs in the bladder — the organ that stores urine. The bladder has an inner lining surrounded by a layer of muscle. Bladder cancer begins in the inner lining of the bladder. It is usually discovered before it has spread past this lining. (Locked) More »

Acoustic Neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a type of benign (noncancerous) brain tumor that grows on the vestibular nerve as it travels from the inner ear to the brainstem. It is one of the most common types of benign brain tumors. The first sign of one is usually hearing loss. The cochleo-vestibular nerve (also called the eighth cranial nerve) is made up of three nerves that connect the inner ear to the brain. One branch — the cochlear nerve — carries hearing information. The other two branches — the inferior and superior vestibular nerves — carry balance information to the brain. The nerves are wrapped in a layer of specialized cells called Schwann cells. An acoustic neuroma — also called a vestibular schwannoma — is a tumor of those cells. If an acoustic neuroma is not diagnosed or treated it can grow large enough to press on important structures in the brainstem and cause major life threatening problems. (Locked) More »

Melanoma

Melanoma is cancer of the cells ("melanocytes") that give skin its color. It develops when these cells change and reproduce aggressively. The number of cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is increasing faster than any other cancer. Doctors aren't sure why melanoma rates are soaring. It could be from spending too much time in the sun during outdoor activities. It could also be due to global changes, such as the depletion of the ozone, which absorbs many of the sun's harmful rays. Your pattern of sun exposure appears to affect your risk of developing melanoma more than the total amount of sun exposure in your lifetime. Short bursts of intense sun seem most dangerous, especially if you get sunburned. Being out in the sun can cause changes (mutations) in skin cells' genes. Researchers have recently found several gene mutations shared by many melanoma tumor cells. It is likely that one or more of these mutations starts the cancer. (Locked) More »

Brain Tumor Overview

What Is It? A brain tumor is a mass of abnormally growing cells in the brain or skull. It can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Unlike other cancers, a cancer arising from brain tissue (a primary brain cancer) rarely spreads. Whether benign or malignant, all brain tumors are serious. A growing tumor eventually will compress and damage other structures in the brain. There are two categories of brain tumors: primary and secondary. Primary tumors start in brain tissue, while secondary tumors spread to the brain from another area of the body. Primary tumors are classified by the tissue in which they begin: Gliomas, the most common primary tumors, start in the brain's glial (supportive) tissue. There are several types of gliomas, and they can vary in their aggressiveness and response to treatment. Glioblastoma multiforme is a fast-growing, higher-grade tumor that can arise from a lower-grade glioma. Medulloblastomas come from early embryonic cells and more commonly occur in children. Meningiomas are related to cells in the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. They are usually benign, but can come back (recur) after treatment. Secondary tumors most commonly arise from the lungs or breast. Other cancers, especially melanoma (a type of skin cancer), renal cell cancer (a type of kidney cancer), and lymphoma (a cancer of the immune system) can spread to the brain. When this happens, the cancer is the same as the original cancer. For example, lung cancer that spreads to the brain is known as metastatic lung cancer, because the tumor's cells resemble abnormal lung cells. Secondary brain tumors are much more common than primary tumors. Although brain tumors can occur at any age, they most commonly affect adults 40 to 70 years old and children 3 to 12 years of age. Whether the use of cellular phones contributes to the development of brain tumors, especially in children, has sparked debate. The issue is far from resolved, and additional research is needed.   (Locked) More »

Lymphoma Overview

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph (or lymphatic) system. It is part of the immune system. It collects and destroys invading organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, and abnormal cells. It protects the body from infection and disease. (Locked) More »