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.
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is a type of leukemia. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow. ALL is also known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute lymphoid leukemia.
ALL is acancer of the body's blood-making system. Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, the soft, inner part of bones.
The word "acute" in acute lymphocytic leukemia refers to the fact that the disease can progress quickly. The word "lymphocytic" means that the cancer develops from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
The body produces three types of infection-fighting lymphocytes:
B lymphocytes, which make antibodies to help protect the body from germs.
T lymphocytes, which can destroy virus-infected cells, foreign cells, and cancer cells.
Natural killer cells, which also can kill cancer cells and viruses.
In ALL, the body produces too many immature lymphocytes (lymphoblasts). These cells cannot fight infection as well as normal cells.
In addition, as these lymphocytes quickly multiply, they crowd out healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in the blood and bone marrow. This may lead to infection, anemia, and easy bleeding.
Certain genetic changes are also associated with ALL.
Acute lymphocytic leukemia typically invades the blood quickly. It can involve other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, brain and spinal cord (central nervous system), and testes.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a cancer that occurs when the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. CLL usually grows slowly compared to other leukemias, and it may not cause symptoms for some time.
CLL is one of four main types of leukemia. It is the second most common type of leukemia in adults; most people with CLL are middle-aged or older. The disease is very rare in children.
Normally, a person's immature blood stem cells develop into myeloid and lymphoid stem cells. The myeloid cells become mature blood cells: white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Lymphoid stem cells develop into three types of infection-fighting lymphocytes:
B lymphocytes, which make antibodies to help protect the body from germs
T lymphocytes, which can destroy virus-infected cells, foreign cells, and cancer cells
Natural killer cells, which also can kill cancer cells and viruses.
In CLL, too many blood stem cells turn into abnormal lymphocytes. These cells do not function properly. Even in high numbers, they cannot fight infection as well as normal cells. As they pile up in the blood and bone marrow, they crowd out healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This can result in infection, anemia, and easy bleeding. CLL most often develops from B lymphocytes.
CLL begins in the bone marrow but then typically invades the blood. In time, it can spread to other parts of the body that normally contain lymphocytes, such as the lymph nodes (in the neck, abdomen, and groin, under the arms, and around the collarbone), as well as the liver and the spleen. These tissues may then become enlarged.
Certain factors may increase a person's chance of developing CLL. These include
having relatives with CLL or cancer of the lymph system
being exposed to certain chemicals
being middle-aged or older
being male and white
being of North American or European descent.
Keep in mind, however, that having one or more risk factors for CLL does not mean you will develop the disease.
One of the most common cancers, lung cancer usually occurs when a cancer-causing agent, or carcinogen, triggers the growth of abnormal cells in the lung. These cells multiply out of control and eventually form a tumor. As the tumor grows, it can block or narrow airways and make breathing difficult. Eventually, tumor cells can spread (metastasize) to nearby lymph nodes and other parts of the body. These include the
In most cases, the carcinogens that trigger lung cancer are chemicals found in cigarette smoke. However, more and more lung cancers are being diagnosed in people who have never smoked.
Lung cancers are divided into two groups: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer. NSCLC accounts for about 85% of all lung cancers. These cancers are further divided into subgroups, based on how their cells look under a microscope:
Adenocarcinoma. This is the most common type of NSCLC. Although it is related to smoking, it is the most common type of lung cancer in nonsmokers. It is also the most common form of lung cancer in women and in people younger than 45. It usually develops near the edge of the lung. It can also involve the pleura, the membrane covering the lung.
Squamous cell carcinoma. This type of NSCLC tends to form a mass near the center of the lungs. As the mass gets larger, it can bulge into one of the larger air passages, or bronchi. In some cases, the tumor forms a cavity in the lungs.
Large cell carcinoma. Like adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma tends to develop at the edge of the lungs and spread to the pleura. Like squamous cell carcinoma, it can form a cavity in the lungs.
Adenosquamous carcinoma, undifferentiated carcinoma, and bronchioloalveolar carcinoma. These are relatively rare NSCLCs.
NSCLC is more likely than small cell cancer to be localized at the time of diagnosis. That means the cancer is limited to the lung or that it hasn't spread beyond the chest. As a result, it can usually be treated with surgery. It may not respond well to chemotherapy (anticancer drugs). However, sophisticated genetic tests can help predict which patients may show favorable responses to particular treatments, including chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, even when doctors think that the cancer is localized, it often comes back after surgery. This means cancer cells had started to spread before surgery, but they couldn't yet be detected.
Your risk of all types of lung cancer, including NSCLC, increases if you
smoke. Smoking cigarettes is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer. In fact, cigarette smokers are 13 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers. Cigar and pipe smoking are almost as likely to cause lung cancer as cigarette smoking.
breathe tobacco smoke. Nonsmokers who inhale fumes from cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking have an increased risk of lung cancer.
are exposed to radon gas. Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas formed in the ground. It seeps into the lower floors of homes and other buildings and can contaminate drinking water. Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It's not clear whether elevated radon levels contribute to lung cancer in nonsmokers. But radon exposure does contribute to lung cancer in smokers and in people who regularly breathe high amounts of the gas at work (miners, for example). You can test radon levels in your home with a radon testing kit.
are exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral used in insulation, fireproofing materials, floor and ceiling tiles, automobile brake linings, and other products. People exposed to asbestos on the job (miners, construction workers, shipyard workers, and some auto mechanics) have a higher-than-normal risk of lung cancer. People who live or work in buildings with asbestos-containing materials that are deteriorating also have an increased risk of lung cancer. The risk is even higher in people who also smoke. Asbestos exposure also increases the risk of developing mesothelioma, a relatively rare and usually fatal cancer. It usually starts in the chest and resembles lung cancer.
are exposed to other cancer-causing agents at work. These include uranium, arsenic, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers, gasoline, and diesel exhaust.
Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that form the inner lining of the stomach. The disease often does not cause symptoms until its later stages. Usually, by the time stomach cancer is diagnosed, the prognosis is poor. Most people who are diagnosed with stomach cancer are over age 60. The disease rarely occurs before age 50.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of leukemia. It is also called acute myelogenous leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute myelocytic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia, and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft, inner part of bones where blood cells are produced. The word "acute" in acute myeloid leukemia refers to the fact that the disease can progress quickly.
AML starts in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. These blood-forming cells are called myeloid stem cells. Myeloid stem cells normally develop into:
White blood cells, which fight infection and disease
Red blood cells, which carry oxygen
Platelets, whichhelp prevent bleeding by causing blood to clot.
In most cases of AML, the stem cells develop into immature white blood cells (myeloblasts). The immature myeloblasts reproduce without becoming healthy, mature white blood cells. As the leukemia cells multiply in the bone marrow and blood, they crowd out healthy blood cells. This can lead to frequent infections, anemia, and easy bruising and bleeding.
Sometimes, too many myeloid stem cells develop into abnormal red blood cells or platelets.
Leukemia can involve tissues outside the bone marrow and blood, including lymph nodes, brain, skin and other parts of the body.
Of the childhood leukemias, AML occurs less often. Boys and girls are affected equally.