Introduction to Understanding Cancer

Cancer is one of the most pervasive diseases in the world, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Cancer treatment developments are constantly in the news, and billions of dollars are spent on cancer research.  Still, how much do you really understand about the disease?  How is that there can be so many different types of cancers that afflict just about every part of the body?  In this article, we will answer all of your questions regarding cancer over the following sections:

  • Causes and Diagnosis of CancerIt is difficult to say what exactly causes cancer. Some people feel the amount of process foods and chemicals we are exposed to account for the increase in cancer rates. But while we don't exactly know what directly causes cancer, we do know there are certain behaviors that increase your risk of contracting it. For instance, just about everyone knows that smoking can increase your risk of getting lung cancer. On this page we will review some other risky behaviors, as well as look at how a doctor would go about diagnosing a patient with cancer.
  • Treatment of CancerAs difficult as it is to identify the causes of cancer, it is equally has hard to target one specific treatment for all of the many types of cancer. There are, however, some common treatments that could be employed with virtually any form of cancer.  One is surgery, or the removal of the malignant tumor. Two other common treatments, though they can be very hard on the patient, are chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Finally, we will look at immunotherapy and prognostic factors.
  • Brain Cancer, Lung Cancer, and Skin CancerOn our first page exploring the various types of cancer we will begin with three of the heavy-hitters. Brain cancer, and truly any brain disorder, is very dangerous for the patient. While not the most common form of cancer, it can be the scariest. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women. Treatment for lung cancer is particularly difficult because the organ it afflicts is so delicate and vital. Lastly, we will look at skin cancer, far and away the most common type of cancer. Fortunately, skin cancer is rarely fatal.
  • Gastrointestinal CancersGastrointestinal cancers are sometimes referred to as GI cancers or colorectal cancers. These cancers can attack any component of the digestive system including the intestine, rectum or anus. On this page, we will focus on three of the most common forms of gastrointestinal cancers. First we will learn about colon cancer, which can be deadly if not detected early. Next we will look at a potentially debilitating form of cancer, liver cancer. Finally, we will learn about stomach cancer. Though stomach cancer can be quite grave, this for of cancer has been on the decline in recent years.
  • Gynecological CancersGynecological cancers refer to cancers that are specific to women. The most high profile and common gynecological cancer is breast cancer. In truth, breast cancer is the second-highest cause of cancer deaths among women. Just behind breast cancer is cervical cancer, which is simple to detect by hard to treat. Ovarian cancer, on the other hand, is both hard to detect and treat, making it a very distressing form of gynecological cancer. Finally, we will discuss uterine and vaginal cancers, which are most common in women over 50.
  • Leukemia and Bone CancerLeukemia used to be death sentence for the children who were diagnosed with it. Thanks to advancements in screening and treatment, the life spans of leukemia patients has increased dramatically. Leukemia is a form of cancer that affects the bone marrow and consequently the blood. Leukemia patients can have weakened immune systems and fatigue. Also on this page, we will look at bone cancer. While very rare, bone cancer also primarily affects children.
  • LymphomaLymphoma refers to cancers that target the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system refers to refer to the vessels that move fluid around your body, filtering out harmful substances. Essentially, the lymph system is part of the immune system. The two major forms or lymphoma are Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Both of these diseases can be quite treatable and in some cases a full recovery can be expected.
  • Urinary Tract CancersThe urinary tract refers to the system in the body that produces and eliminates urine. The main cancer associated with the urinary tract is bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is much more common among men than women. Another form of urinary tract cancer is specific to men only, prostate cancer. The prostate is a small, doughnut-shaped sex gland that surrounds the bladder and urethra. Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. While the precise causes of cancer remain a mystery, the link between smoking and cancer has been established.

Causes and Diagnosis of Cancer

Who is most likely to develop cancer? What are the causes of cancer? These questions are very difficult, if not impossible, to answer. There are, however, certain risk factors for cancer that increase the possibility that a person will develop the disease. Among these risk factors are age (as a rule, the older the person is, the higher his or her risk of getting cancer), family history (for example, if a mother or sister had breast cancer, the risk of developing breast cancer is increased), and environmental and other factors.

The rapid increase in cancer rates in the last hundred years has largely been blamed on the environment. Polluted air and water, food additives and colorings, and changes in diet from "natural" to "processed" foods all have been implicated as possible causes. Cigarette smoking has been shown conclusively to be a cause of lung and other related cancers.

Warning Signs

Often a patient is the first to suspect cancer. This is why it is important to learn some of the most common warning signs of cancer. Some of these signs may include:

  • A change in bowel or bladder habits
  • A sore that does not heal
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere
  • Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
  • An obvious change in a wart or mole
  • A nagging cough or continued hoarseness

DiagnosisFollowing a physical examination, if the doctor suspects abnormal growth, he or she may order a series of tests, including special X-ray examinations (for example, computed tomography scans, in which successive X rays at slightly different levels are used to create a three-dimensional image of a structure), nuclear medicine scans (in which radioactive substances are used in the imaging process), ultrasound scanning (a technique that uses sound waves to create images of internal structures), magnetic resonance imaging (in which a strong magnetic field is used instead of X rays), cytologic tests (microscopic examination of cells), and various laboratory evaluations. The doctor may also order a biopsy (removal of a small tissue sample for microscopic examination) to determine the cell type of the suspected growth and whether it is benign or malignant.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. An ultrasound can also be used to detect cancer.

A physician may also recommend a specialist with expertise in specific types of cancer treatment. This may be an oncologist (cancer specialist), a cancer surgeon, a radiation oncologist (radiologist who uses radiation to treat cancer), or a hematologist (specialist in blood diseases).

While each type of cancer will have its own specific treatment, on the next page we will look at some of the general treatment options.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Sometimes, surgery can be the only treatment a cancer patient needs.

Treatment of Cancer

There are many ways of treating cancer. Many treatment protocols have been developed that are effective in certain types of disease. Cancer therapy often includes surgery to remove the cancer, to clear obstructions of vital passageways caused by the cancer, or to cut nerves sending pain messages to the brain; chemotherapy (use of powerful drugs to kill cancer cells); radiation therapy (use of radioactive materials in the form of energy beams or radioactive implants to destroy cancer cells); and immunotherapy (use of naturally occurring substances to increase the activity of the body's immune system). Combinations of therapies are often used.

Surgery

Surgery is the most commonly used method of dealing with cancers that develop into tumors. If cancer is contained in one area, surgery can sometimes completely eliminate it. New surgical techniques are expanding the range of tumors that can be safely removed. Furthermore, if the surgeon is able to remove only a section of the tumor, the reduced tumor can often be successfully controlled with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

More precise surgical techniques mean that surgery today is often less disfiguring than in the past. In addition, new developments in skin grafting make it possible to begin reconstructive work on patients -- for instance, those with cancer of the head and neck -- simultaneously with the cancer surgery.

Sometimes surgery is performed on a patient even though it is known that surgery will not cure the cancer. The removal of a tumor may simply make the patient more comfortable. In other cases, nerve pathways to the pain center in the brain may be cut. Certain noncancerous growths are sometimes removed because they may develop into cancer or because they are exerting pressure on adjacent anatomic structures (which may lead to functional problems).

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy (the treatment of cancer with drugs) has gradually become more widely used. Many kinds of cancer can be effectively treated with chemotherapy alone. Anticancer drugs are also often used as a supplement to primary treatment, such as surgery. Once surgery has reduced a cancerous growth, chemotherapy can often eliminate it. Chemotherapy has proved effective against some forms of cancer that formerly were almost always fatal, in particular, Hodgkin's disease (cancer of the lymph system), acute lymphocytic leukemia (a blood disease predominantly of children), and cancer of the testes.

Most cancer drugs attack any rapidly reproducing cells in the body, whether they are cancerous or not, producing some of the side effects of chemotherapy. Destruction of normal cells that reproduce frequently, such as those in the digestive tract, the hair follicles, and the bone marrow, can lead to nausea, hair loss, and lowered red blood cell count.

Usually, several drugs used to treat the cancer are administered in combination. If the cancer does not respond to the drugs, or if resistance to a medication develops, another combination of several medications may be tried.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation destroys the ability of cells to divide. Cancer cells are far more susceptible to radiation than normal cells, although not all cancers respond to radiation. Like surgery, radiation therapy is usually a localized treatment, directed at a particular cancer site. Radiation treatment may also involve implanting a radioactive object directly into a tumor, destroying it from within. Radiation can be used before surgery to reduce a tumor to operable size, and frequently a patient receives radiation after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that might remain near the cancer site. Some tumors can be treated by radiation alone.

Radiation therapy is continually being refined. Drugs have been discovered that make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation. Different forms of radiation are being tested on resistant cancers. In addition, radiation today can be directed more precisely, and in stronger forms, with little harm to surrounding tissue. However, there are still side effects, including loss of appetite, nausea, and temporary hair loss. It is not certain how dangerous it is to be treated with radiation, which is itself carcinogenic; however, it is generally considered that a cancer in the body is far more threatening than the future effects of radiation.

Immunotherapy

The goal of immunotherapy is to enable the patient's body to produce substances that resist the growth of cancer. The theory behind immunotherapy is that cancer develops when, for some reason, the body fails to destroy abnormal cells. Immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer is still in the experimental stage.

Prognostic Factors

A number of prognostic factors (factors that predict length of survival) are important in cancer cases. Most important are the stage and the type of the disease. The earlier the stage of the disease (that is, the earlier in its course it is diagnosed) the better the prognosis is. The type of tumor is also important, since the various types respond differently to treatment. Furthermore, more than one type of cancer can occur within a specific organ. For example, all lung cancers do not involve the same kind of cell. Age and overall physical condition are also important in determining whether or not the patient will be able to win the fight against cancer.

On the next page we will begin our examination of the various types of cancer, staring with some of the most severe and one of the most common -- brain, lung, and skin cancer.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. MRIs have vastly improved the diagnosis of brain cancer.

Brain Cancer, Lung Cancer, and Skin Cancer

Cancer describes a broad group of diseases in which certain body cells grow out of control. In the following pages we will cover many of the most common forms of the disease. On this page we will deal with brain, lung, and skin cancer.

Brain Cancer

Any tumor in the brain, whether cancerous or not, is very dangerous. Because the brain occupies an enclosed space within the skull, even a small tumor that weighs only a fifth of a pound can cause crowding sufficient to bring on death. Brain cancer is most often the result of metastasis from other cancer sites, particularly the breast, lung, and skin.

Symptoms of brain cancer are of two kinds.  pressure in the skull can cause seizures, headaches, nausea, forgetfulness, and personality changes. However, symptoms may also arise in the part of the body controlled by the area in the brain that is affected by the cancer. For instance, coordination, vision, or strength of limbs may be affected.

In the past, brain tumors did not respond well to treatment, largely because diagnosis could not be made until late in the development of the disease. Recently, however, diagnostic techniques have improved. The computed tomography (CT) scanner produces a three-dimensional image of the brain that can show the size and location of a tumor and can be used to monitor the progress of treatment. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also used.

Surgery is the primary treatment for brain cancer. It is often not used, however, when cancer is present in multiple areas or when the tumor originated in another organ. Surgery in the brain is a delicate procedure; often, a tumor deep in the brain cannot be totally removed without risking impairment of body function. However, new techniques in brain surgery -- sometimes with the use of a microscope -- permit treatment of tumors once considered inoperable. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are often used after surgery, although the sensitivity of brain tissue demands that these be administered cautiously.

Lung Cancer

Cigarette smoking is generally accepted as the major cause of lung cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men, and in recent years the incidence of lung cancer in women has been growing, probably as a result of the increase in the number of women who smoke. The incidence of lung cancer is also increasing among nonsmokers.

Those who smoke and are over 45 or who have a family history of lung cancer should be on the lookout for symptoms, since the early signs -- a persistent cough or lingering respiratory discomfort -- can be very mild. Later, coughing will increase, as will chest pain and shortness of breath, and blood may be found in the sputum (the material coughed up from the lungs).

If it is relatively confined, a cancerous tumor in the lung is usually removed surgically. It is sometimes necessary to remove an entire lobe of the lung. Because lung cancers are usually not detected until they are well advanced, surgery alone may not be able to eliminate them, and radiation and chemotherapy may be used in combination with or in place of surgery.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. If it is relatively confined, a cancerous tumor in the lung is usually removed surgically

In recent years, the deadliest form of lung cancer, small-cell carcinoma (also called oat-cell carcinoma), has yielded to a new drug therapy that has produced remission (absence of symptoms) in some patients. Unfortunately, the remission is often not permanent.

Skin Cancer

About 300,000 cases of skin cancer are discovered every year. Its incidence increases every year (particularly among women, perhaps because people currently are getting more exposure to sunlight. The ultraviolet rays of the sun are a major cause of skin cancer. Fair-skinned people have less melanin (a protective substance in the skin) than dark-skinned people do and are therefore more susceptible to the effects of these rays. Skin cancer can also result from prolonged exposure to certain chemicals, such as arsenic compounds. Burn scars and skin diseases sometimes develop into cancer.

Symptoms of skin cancer are a change in the surface of the skin, a wound that does not heal, and a sudden major change in a wart, mole, or birthmark. All such suspicious signs should be examined by a doctor.

Most skin cancers are highly treatable. Some can be removed in a doctor's office or an outpatient clinic. But since some forms of skin cancer can spread throughout the body, it is important that they be treated early. The most dangerous skin cancer, malignant melanoma, can metastasize through the lymph and vascular systems.

Skin cancer is an unusual form of cancer in that it can be prevented easily. Fair-skinned people and anyone with a family history of skin cancer should avoid exposure to the sun. Additionally, everyone who spends time in the sun should apply a protective sunscreen to exposed portions of the body. It is important that children, whose skin is more sensitive, be protected against the sun. The use of certain drugs, such as barbiturates, antibiotics, and birth control pills, can increase the sensitivity of the skin.

In the next section, we will look at gastrointestinal cancers, which include colon and stomach cancers.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Men and women over the age of 50 are advised to get a colonoscopy.

Gastrointestinal Cancers

Cancers of the gastrointestinal system can be especially hard to treat because they prevent the patient from taking in the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Colon Cancer

Every year, many Americans die of cancer of the colon and rectum. About half of all cases of cancer of the colon can be cured by surgery, and early detection can greatly improve this percentage. A simple test for occult (not visible to the naked eye) blood in the stool can help to diagnose colon cancer. Everyone who is older than 50 years of age or who has chronic digestive problems should have screening tests for colon cancer regularly. Cure is twice as likely if the disease is discovered before symptoms occur. Periodic screening with a flexible sigmoidoscope or colonoscope is also recommended for men and women older than 50 years of age and for men and women over age 40 who have a family history of colon cancer.

Symptoms of cancer of the colon include a change in bowel movements, bleeding from the rectum, pencil-thin stools, and abdominal discomfort not eased by bowel movement. If colon cancer is suspected, the physician will probably perform a rectal exam to search for unusual growths. If further examination is necessary, the doctor may introduce a colonoscope (a lighted, tubelike instrument) into the colon through the anus. This instrument permits examination of the inside of the colon and can also be used to obtain a biopsy specimen.

Surgery is the usual treatment for cancer of the colon. If the cancer is near or in the rectum, the surgeon may remove all of the rectum and create an artificial rectum, or colostomy, in the lower abdominal wall. A colostomy is covered with a bag to collect waste material. Colostomy is not automatically done for any colon cancer. The type of operation performed is dictated by the size and location of the tumor.

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer usually is caused by the spread of cancer cells from another site in the body. However, cancer that originates in the liver can sometimes be traced to environmental carcinogens. It is known that anyone who has worked with vinyl chloride, a chemical used in plastics manufacturing, has a higher risk of this disease. It also appears that cirrhosis of the liver (a disease in which normal liver cells are replaced by fibrous tissue) may cause an individual to be more susceptible to liver cancer. People who are chronic carriers of the hepatitis B or C virus may be at higher risk of liver cancer as well.

Symptoms of liver cancer may resemble the signs of a peptic ulcer -- aching or burning pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, and vomiting. A swollen or hardened liver often indicates to the doctor the need for further investigation.

If this form of cancer is diagnosed early and is confined to the liver, it can be treated surgically, but most often the prognosis is not good.

Stomach Cancer

The incidence of stomach cancer has decreased by 50 percent in the last 25 years. A change in diet may account for this. Stomach cancer is more common in men than in women and usually occurs between the ages of 50 and 70. The high-risk group includes those with a history of pernicious anemia or alcoholism and those who choose a diet rich in smoked, pickled, or salted foods.

The symptoms of stomach cancer are similar to those of a peptic ulcer (heartburn and abdominal discomfort), which makes diagnosis more difficult. It may not be until the disease is well advanced that the identifying symptoms of bloody stools or vomit appear. A special X-ray study may be obtained after the patient swallows barium (a contrast substance that coats the lining of the stomach), which allows irregularities in the stomach (such as the presence of a tumor) to show up on X-ray films. If a tumor is identified, a flexible, lighted, tubelike instrument called an endoscope may be inserted down the throat into the stomach to examine the tumor more closely and perhaps obtain a biopsy specimen.

Surgery is the most effective treatment of this disease, but only about 10 percent of victims survive more than five years after diagnosis. Surgery is most useful when the tumor has not begun to spread. It is sometimes necessary to remove all or part of the stomach. After such surgery, the patient will require a modified diet.

In the next section, we look at cancers that are specific to a women.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

©2006 Publications International. Ltd. If you or your doctor detect a lump in your breast, your doctor will order a mammogram.

Gynecological Cancers

Though breast cancer affects almost exclusively women, it still claims ten of thousands of lives every year. Keep reading to learn about other gynecological cancers.

Breast Cancer

About one woman in eight will develop breast cancer at some time in her life; one woman in 28 will die from the cancer. (Breast cancer is the most common cancer of women, but lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women.) The high-risk group includes women over 35, women who have never had children or who had a child for the first time after the age of 30, and women who began menstruation early or who experienced late menopause. Breast cancer also occurs with greater frequency in women who have already had breast cancer. The most important risk factor for breast cancer is family history, however, especially if a woman's mother or sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Self-examination of the breasts may lead to early detection. All women should perform these examinations monthly at the end of the menstrual period. About 90 percent of all breast tumors are discovered by self-examination.

If a lump is discovered in a breast, the doctor will probably order an X-ray examination of the breast, known as a mammogram. (The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms for women older than 50 years of age.) The doctor may also take a biopsy specimen from the lump to test for the presence of cancer. If cancer is identified, surgery will probably be performed. Women with breast cancer often dread surgery because of the disfigurement that can result; however, surgery for a breast tumor is often less extensive today than in the past.

At one time, all breast cancer patients received a radical mastectomy (removal of the breast, underlying chest muscles, and lymph nodes in the armpit). Now it is known that in many cases the removal of the breast, or even the tumor alone, may be equally effective. In addition, there are techniques for reconstruction of the breast after surgery and for rehabilitation of muscle tone in an arm that has been weakened by surgery. In some cases, radiation therapy and chemotherapy will be used after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells.

Cervical Cancer

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus (womb), which extends into the vagina. Cancer of the cervix is the second most common cancer among American women. The death rate from this disease has decreased 50 percent over the last 50 years or so, largely as a result of early diagnosis. Early cervical cancer has no symptoms but can be detected by means of a Pap smear. A Pap smear is performed routinely in a doctor's office by scraping the surface of the cervix. The collected material is then tested for indications of cancer. Today, two out of three cases of cervical cancer are detected with this test before symptoms occur.

You are more likely than most women to develop cervical cancer if you have had a sexually transmitted viral infection, such as genital warts or herpes; if you began having sexual intercourse before age 18; or if you have had many sexual partners. A particularly aggressive type of cervical cancer appears in HIV-positive women.

If a Pap smear indicates the possibility of cervical cancer, a biopsy of the affected area will likely be done. Treatment depends on how far the disease has advanced; early forms are almost always curable by surgery. If a patient still hopes to bear children and the cancer is in an early stage, this surgery can sometimes be put off until after children have been born. However, this is possible only if the disease does not seem to be progressing, and the cancer must be monitored carefully during this phase. The uterus should be removed eventually.

Ovarian Cancer

This is the most dangerous form of cancer of the female reproductive organs, because it is so difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Women older than 50 years of age have a higher incidence of the disease, as do childless women and those with a family history of ovarian cancer and breast cancer.

Symptoms may include pelvic discomfort, constipation, abdominal swelling, and irregular menstruation. Diagnosis is often not possible without an exploratory operation known as a laparotomy, in which a surgical incision is made in the abdominal wall. Laparoscopy, in which a lighted tubelike instrument is inserted through a small incision in the abdominal wall, has become a very useful tool in detecting ovarian cancer. Sometimes removing only one ovary is sufficient, but usually it is necessary to remove both ovaries and the uterus.

Uterine Cancer

This disease is most common in women older than 50 years of age. Especially susceptible are women who have never given birth, those who are obese or diabetic, and those who suffer from high blood pressure. Women who have taken the female hormone estrogen without progesterone are at higher risk than those who have not.

Vaginal bleeding after menopause is the most common symptom of uterine cancer. If a Pap smear shows no abnormalities, a minor surgical procedure known as dilation and curettage (D&C) may be performed. This involves scraping the interior walls of the uterus to examine the tissue for cancer. If cancer is identified, a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) is usually done. Uterine cancer is usually detected early because of the bleeding symptom, and so rarely progresses to metastasis before being detected.

Vaginal Cancer

Once confined to women over 50, vaginal cancer has begun to appear in women between ages 17 and 20. The mothers of most of these young women took artificial estrogens, particularly diethylstilbestrol (DES), during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage. A woman whose mother took artificial estrogens during pregnancy should have a Pap smear twice a year. (A Pap smear involves scraping the surface of the cervix and testing the collected material for signs of cancer.) Symptoms of vaginal cancer include vaginal pain and bleeding. The disease is usually treated with radiation and surgery.

On the next page, we will learn about leukemia, a cancer that originates in the bone marrow, and the extremely rare bone cancer.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Leukemia starts in the bone marrow, the site of blood cell production.

Leukemia and Bone Cancer

Both leukemia and bone cancer are cancers that primarily afflict children and young adults.

Leukemia

This is a disease that originates in the bone marrow, the site of blood cell production. The term leukemia, which is derived from Greek words that mean literally "white blood," refers to the presence of excessive numbers of white blood cells, especially immature and poorly functioning forms of these cells.

The symptoms of leukemia are caused by the impairment of normal blood cell functions. The primary role of white blood cells is fighting infection. Since many of the white blood cells present are immature, they function poorly and infections are common. Other blood cell types normally present in bone marrow (red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body, and platelets, which are needed for blood clotting) may be crowded out by the cancerous leukemic cells. As a result, symptoms of deficiency of these cell types are often evident in leukemia patients. Symptoms include poor blood clotting ability (due to a shortage of platelets) and fatigue resulting from anemia (due to decreased numbers of red blood cells). Other symptoms are easy bruising, bleeding from the gums, blood in the stools, fever, and frequent infections. The spleen and lymph nodes are usually enlarged.

Leukemia is often treated first with intensive chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells. The patient may appear to become even more ill during treatment because of the side effects of the cancer-fighting drugs. After this initial phase, radiation and additional drugs may be administered. Bone marrow transplants are now often used.

Leukemia is the most common form of cancer in children. In recent years, the outlook has improved dramatically for children with this disease. Twenty years ago, nearly all children who suffered from leukemia died. Today, the life spans of many have increased.

Bone Cancer

This rare form of cancer is most common in those between the ages of 5 and 20. Predisposing factors include bone diseases, bone fractures, and exposure to radiation. Bone cancer is more common as a secondary condition -- the result of another cancer that has spread to the bones from another site.

Next, we will learn about lymphoma. In the past this type of cancer was almost impossible to detect early enough to treat. Recent advances have changed this.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Lymphoma

This cancer attacks the lymphatic system, particularly the lymph nodes and the spleen. These organs manufacture lymphocytes (cells that protect the body against infection).

The lymph system is the body's drainage system. It is composed of a network of vessels and small structures called lymph nodes. The lymph vessels convey excess fluid collected from all over the body back into the blood circulation.

The first symptom of lymphoma is usually a swollen spleen or swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin. Fever and sweating are later symptoms. If these symptoms persist, a doctor should be consulted. If the doctor suspects cancer, a biopsy of the enlarged organ will probably be ordered.

There are two major forms of lymphoma: Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In recent years, there have been dramatic strides in the treatment of Hodgkin's disease. In the early stages, radiation alone can be very effective. Later in the course of the disease, more extensive radiation or a combination of radiation and chemotherapy may be required.

Treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is much the same as that of Hodgkin's disease. In the past, this form of lymphoma was usually discovered too late for treatment, but recent advances have made long periods of remission possible in many cases.

On our final page we learn about urinary tract cancers.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Urinary Tract Cancers

We will conclude our exploration of the various types of cancer with one of the few cancers that affect more men than women -- urinary tract cancers.

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is the most common cancer of the urinary tract. It occurs most often between the ages of 50 and 70 and is the fourth leading cause of cancer death among men. Four times as many men as women are afflicted.

Bladder cancer has been connected with exposure to a number of carcinogens. Bladder cancer may result because the urinary tract comes into contact with so many foreign substances due to its excretory function. For many years it has been known that those who work with aniline dyes have a high incidence of cancer of the bladder. Bladder cancer is also associated with exposure to tar from tobacco smoke and with schistosomiasis (infestation with a tropical parasite).

Blood in the urine is usually the first symptom of bladder cancer. In addition, urination may be difficult, painful, and frequent. The appearance of blood in the urine may be intermittent, and if this symptom disappears, a doctor is sometimes not consulted. However, anyone with blood in the urine should consult a doctor since, in the early stages, this disease may be curable, and treatment is far more difficult later. If the symptoms suggest bladder cancer, a cystoscopic examination may be ordered. With the patient under local or general anesthesia, a lighted tubelike instrument called a cystoscope is passed into the urinary tract through the urethra (the passageway from the bladder to the outside), so that the interior of the bladder can be examined. This instrument can also be used to obtain a biopsy specimen (a small sample of tissue for laboratory analysis) of a suspicious growth.

Treatment of bladder cancer depends on how far advanced the disease is. A small tumor can sometimes be completely removed with a cystoscope. More advanced cases are treated with surgery or radiation or a combination of the two. In certain cancers, chemotherapeutic agents are instilled directly into the bladder.

Prostate Cancer

After lung cancer, this is the most common cancer among men. African American men have a higher incidence of prostate cancer than any other group in the world. In general, it is more common in men over 55. Cancer of the prostate (a male sex gland that lies at the base of the bladder) can develop very slowly, often producing no symptoms until the disease is far advanced. Sometimes a routine rectal examination discloses a lump in the prostate. (During a rectal exam, the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and feels the prostate for hard or lumpy areas.) The rectal examination should be included in medical checkups of all men older than 40 years of age.

Your doctor may also order a test to measure substances called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The level of PSA in the blood rises in men who have prostate cancer. The test is often performed annually in men older than 50 years of age.

When symptoms occur, they are usually the result of enlargement of the prostate, which causes difficult urination or blood in the urine. In cases in which prostate cancer is discovered before it has begun to spread, the cancer can frequently be cured by surgery or radiation. When the disease has spread, usually only its symptoms are treated as they occur.

Now that you know the symptoms and causes of the major forms of cancers, you can be better informed when you detect any warning signs. As always, if you suspect cancer, you should see your doctor immediately.

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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.