Did you know that every year there are about 1.7 million cases of cancer reported? That is only in the United States. Even those who do not have cancer in their family or had it themselves will know of someone who currently has or went to treatment for cancer. The disease is that prevalent.
That is why it is extremely helpful to understand the common types of cancer and the symptoms connected to each one. Knowing the warning signs can save you or the life of someone you love. Despite there being over 100 types of cancer, your age, gender, racial and ethnic groups will predispose you to some types more than others.
Also, keep in mind that there are many kinds of cancer that do not have symptoms until the condition has already advanced or spread.
Here are 13 common cancers and their associated symptoms:
With over 2 million of new cases of lung cancer appearing globally every year, and over 228,000 cases in the US in 2020, it is one of the most common cancers around. Lung cancer generally affects those who have a smoking habit, which is one of the reasons why so many lung cancer patients are told to quit smoking. It is also difficult to treat. Next time you see someone you love light up a cigarette, remind them of what is at risk.
Lung cancer is divided into two groups: non-small cell lung cancer, the more common one, and small cell lung cancer. The distinction is determined by the appearance of the cancer cells when viewed under a microscope.
What is dangerous about lung cancer is the progression of symptoms. Within the lungs, it causes symptoms like chest pain that gets worse when laughing, coughing, taking a deep breath; shortness of breath; lack of appetite and weight loss; weakness and fatigue; persistent coughing; and blood phlegm.
Should lung cancer metastasize into other regions of the body, more symptoms are going to appear. You might get pain in the back and hips that radiates from the bones; nervous system changes, like dizziness, balance issues, and headaches; jaundicing when it spreads to the liver; and lumps just under the skin, around the neck and collarbone.
While skin cancer may be one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women, breast cancer is the second. Yet, women are not the only ones who can get breast cancer. For every 1,000 women who are battling breast cancer, there is 1 man. The usual route to being diagnosed is this: the person feels a mass or lump in their breast or nearby tissues. Then, they go to the doctor to see if the lump is cancerous.
There are ways to tell if your breast lump is cancer at home, too. Breast cancer tumors tend to feel supple and round to the touch, kind of like a cyst. Yet, unlike a cyst, the breast cancer tumor will cause some pain. Other symptoms include swelling of the affected breast or chest tissue; tenderness of the breast; dimpling and irritation of the skin (it will look a little like orange peel), as well of redness and thickness; nipple discharge that is not breast milk; and nipple retraction, where the nipple inverts.
You should also be aware of the types of breast cancer. Ductal carcinoma is found in the ducts of the breast and is the most common. Then, there is ductal carcinoma in situ, where abnormal cells are discovered in the duct lining but have yet to spread beyond that. When those cancerous cells do spread, it becomes known as invasive breast cancer. Should the breast appear swollen and red, you may have inflammatory breast cancer. Your breasts may also feel warm, due to blocked lymph vessels.
Like ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer is often silent until it already has metastasized. This cancer develops within the tissues and muscles surrounding the uterus that hold it in place. One population is more at risk of this type of cancer than others: women who are overweight or obese, as well as those who are on estrogen (without progesterone).
There are several signs of endometrial cancer that you should never overlook. Having these symptoms means that the cancer has already progressed to a point of danger. The first sign to look out for is unusual bleeding, spotting, or discharge from the vagina, even in post-menopausal women. In fact, about 90 percent of all women with endometrial cancer have experienced abnormal bleeding in the middle of their cycle or after menopause.
Other symptoms include sudden weight loss; pelvic pain and feeling a mass in the pelvis where the pain is situated, and changes to your bathroom habits.
There are many cancers that seem to happen at random. One minute, there is no sign of them. Then the doctor walks in and tells you what is really causing your back and stomach pain. This is the scenario many diagnosed with pancreatic cancer face. Since the symptoms can be confused with liver and digestive troubles, some people might put off visiting the doctor until it is too late.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include stool that is lightly colored and a bit greasy; blood clots; swelling of the liver and gallbladder; pain in the stomach and back; and jaundice.
Pancreatic cancer targets the exocrine cells—those that produce enzymes needed by the small intestine of the body. Since the cancer itself will never secrete hormones and is not overly obvious, pancreatic cancer can be hard to catch. It is also difficult to treat, even with current technology. Moreover, individuals who are diagnosed with malignant pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors will do better than those with pancreatic exocrine cancers.
In the US, an estimated 73,750 new cases of kidney cancer popped up in 2020. There are two types: Wilms tumors and renal cell cancer. Both occur within the tissues that produce urine. Wilms tumors are seen in children, while renal cell cancer happens in adults. Additionally, cancer cells that grow within the renal pelvis and ureter are called transitional cell cancer. This may progress to the bladder.
Kidney cancer is another sneaky kind. The earliest stages will cause little to no obvious symptoms. Catching it early on is, therefore, tricky. As the cancer worsens, you may notice bloody urine, a loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, fatigue, pain in the lower back (where the kidney is located), and a low grade fever that does not abate.
Some people are at a greater risk of kidney cancer than others. For example, those who smoke a lot or have been taking a certain kind of medication for a longer period of time will be more likely to develop cancer in the kidneys. Some genetic disorders, like Hippel-Lindau syndrome, Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome, and hereditary leiomyomatosis also increase the probability of cancer.
Found in the blood marrow, leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells. In those with leukemia, the red blood cells remain immature and become cancerous, soon overrunning the healthy cells in the bone marrow. Leukemia progresses with symptoms like muscular weakness, unexplained weight loss, chronic fatigue, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, easy bruising and bleeding, and pain or tenderness of the bones.
Surprisingly, leukemia is often diagnosed in children under the age of fifteen but is mostly seen in adults. Leukemia also has two types: acute, which develops suddenly and worsens rapidly; and chronic, which grows worse at a much slower rate than acute. Your prognosis will depend on the type of leukemia, as well as the kind of blood cells affected.
Lymphoblastic leukemia affects the white blood cells, or lymphoblasts, while other forms of leukemia will attack the red blood cells. When that happens, you may struggle to take a breath, because there is not enough oxygen in your body.
There are many conditions that affect the liver, including liver damage, liver disease, and cirrhosis. Sometimes, a mass will form within the liver, causing primary liver cancer. Should the cancer occur within the tissues of the organ, you will be diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma. Younger children are susceptible to another form of liver cancer called hepatoblastoma. Meanwhile, adolescents and adults can all get hepatocellular carcinoma.
The bile ducts can also be endangered by cancer cells. Cancer within the ducts is classified as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, while cancer cells discovered on the outside are known as extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.
Out of all the cancers in this list, liver cancer has far more obvious symptoms, though they tend to occur in later stages. Fainting, confusion, and fever are accompanied with things like jaundice, enlarged veins throughout the torso, abnormal bruising or bleeding, itchiness of the skin, swelling of the abdomen, pain in the gut or between the shoulder blades, a lack of appetite, and constipation. A mass on the tumor may present itself as an enlarged organ. Even the spleen may swell.
Any issues that affect the thyroid glands will influence everything else within the body. You will feel a notable difference in your mood and life when your thyroid is not working well, so if something feels wrong, tune in, and contact a professional.
That said, there are four types of thyroid cancer. The common one is called papillary thyroid cancer. The others are follicular, anaplastic, and medullary. Where the cancer is within the butterfly-shaped organ and the cells it has affected will determine which kind of cancer you are diagnosed with.
Now, how do you detect thyroid cancer? Swelling in the neck will usually clue you in, but you may also have a lump or pain throughout the neck and ears; difficulties breathing and swallowing; and coughing.
One thing that puts people at risk of thyroid cancer is exposure to radiation during childhood. Genetics also play a role. Should someone have a family history of thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplastic type 2A or 2B syndromes, the risk increases significantly.
Melanoma & Skin Cancer
During the early 2000s, there was an explosion of skin cancer cases, due to the popularity of tanning beds among the younger population. Yet, skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, not just on skin that has been damaged by UV rays. That is because there are different types of skin cancer.
Non-melanoma skin cancers can affect either the basal cells or the squamous cells of the skin. This kind of cancer does well with treatment and rarely spreads to other areas of the body. Dermatologists may even be able to remove a non-melanoma patch of skin cancer with a quick local surgery.
The same can’t be said for melanoma, a malignant form of cancer that will aggressively attack other tissues and spread throughout the body. Even though melanoma only accounts for about 2 percent of all annual skin cancer cases, it can be difficult to treat and may take years to get under control.
Non-melanoma skin cancer is first noticed as an irregularity on the skin, such as a rash or strangely colored patch of skin. The abnormalities may be oozing or bleeding. Such issues will only get worse as the cancer grows and burrows into deeper layers of the skin. But how do you tell the difference between basal and squamous cell cancers?
Look for pale or waxy sections of the skin. That is usually basal cell carcinoma. You may also notice an indentation on the bump or a raised blood vessel. Carcinoma located on the chest will be a brown-colored bump or a flesh-colored lesion. Rougher appearing lumps that also feel rough are connected to squamous cell carcinoma. Red, scaly patches can also develop on the head, neck, arms, and hands.
Lastly, check your moles! Any moles that are raised, irritated, red, and larger that a pencil eraser could be merkel cell carcinoma.
Cancer can happen anywhere in the body. Not even your lymph is safe. As long as there are cells there, there can be cancer. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, also known as NHL or lymphoma, begins within the white blood cells, or lymphocytes, that exist within the body’s immune system. NHL is not the same as Hodgkin Lymphoma, which requires a vastly different course of treatment to overcome.
Lymphomas can attack any place in the body where you find lymph tissue, such as the spleen, lymph nodes, the thymus, adenoids and tonsils, bone marrow, and the digestive tract.
Some lymphomas attack B-cells. Others go after T-cells. Then there are indolent (slow) and aggressive (fast) growing lymphomas. Regardless of which type, people with lymphomas are at risk of having the cancer move to other regions of the body, where it can infiltrate other organ systems.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma causes the following symptoms: swollen lymph nodes through the body, but mostly in the neck, armpits, and groin; swelling or pain in the abdomen; sudden weight loss; fever and fatigue; troubles with breathing; chest pain; and a persistent cough.
Here is some good news: When caught early, lymphomas respond very well to cancer treatment.
In 2020, there was an estimated 81,400 new cases of bladder cancer in the United States. Part of the reason is that bladder cancer is rather easy to catch. Blood in the urine—the most noticeable of bladder cancer symptoms—is rather alarming. Secondary symptoms, such as a weak urine stream, changes in urination, pain, and inability to urinate are also common. Not knowing what is going on, people call the doctor immediately.
Some of these symptoms are also those of an enlarged prostate, overactive bladder, and urinary tract infection. So, it makes sense that you would contact a doctor to get medical attention.
Did you know that smoking tobacco can increase your risk of developing chronic bladder infections and bladder cancer? There are also different kinds of bladder cancer. Transitional cell carcinoma, also known as urothelial carcinoma, is highly common. Within the bladder are urothelial cells that are transitional, because they can stretch and change shape as the bladder fills.
Other types include squamish cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. In the former, the cancer attacks the thin, flat cells lining the bladder; the latter deals with the cells of the stomach that produce and excrete mucus and the like within the bladder.
Here is one cancer that does not give you any warning signs in the beginning. Most men who develop prostate cancer are taken aback by the diagnosis. That is why many experts will tell men over the age of 55 to discuss getting tested for prostate cancer with their doctor. And if you are experiencing any symptoms, you should see a medical professional immediately.
Symptoms include having a frequent need to urinate and difficulties during urination, such as having trouble controlling the stream of urine, weakness during urination, or burning and pain. You may also feel pressure in the rectum or stiffness throughout the lower body, including the pelvis, hips, thighs, and lumbar region.
Yet, these can be easily confused for a bladder problem, like a urinary tract infection, or something wrong with the kidneys. What often makes men decide to call their doctor is when they experience recurring issues in the bedroom, where they have difficulty maintaining or getting an erection or pain during ejaculation.
African American men should be aware of these signs and symptoms, since they are considered the group with the most risk of prostate cancer. Not only that, but African American men succumb to prostate cancer more often than Caucasian men. If you are over the age of 65, make sure you are having routine prostate cancer screenings.
Rectal & Colon Cancer
Sometimes referred to as colorectal cancer, this type affects 1.8 million people a year around the world; it is also the fourth most common cancer in the United States. Fortunately, colorectal cancer typically does not progress far, thanks to colonoscopies and other preventative measures for at risk populations.
Though it may seem like a horrible experience, having a colonoscopy done can help doctors locate polyps forming on the colon’s inner wall or the rectum before becoming cancerous. Thus, the cancer is averted. Aside from polyps, other symptoms of colon and rectal cancer include weakness and exhaustion; sudden and unexpected weight loss; intermittent stomach pain that lasts for several days; pressure in the abdomen or rectum; bloody stool or rectal bleeding.
You may also note that your bowel movements have changed. They may be darker or have a watery consistency. Pay attention to the shape and size.
Please note that rectal and colon cancers often do not cause symptoms until they are in later stages. However, the cancers will often aggravate or cause other commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome or hemorrhoids. If you have symptoms of those conditions along with others associated with cancer, you should consult with a medical professional.