Caring Companions

Education

Cancer

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancerous cells are also called malignant cells.

Symptoms of cancer depend on the type and location of the tumor. For example, lung cancer can cause coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Colon cancer often causes diarrhea, constipation, and blood in the stool. Some cancers may not have any symptoms at all. In certain cancers, such as gallbladder cancer, symptoms often do not start until the disease has reached an advanced stage.

Treatment also varies based on the type of cancer and its stage. The stage of a cancer refers to how much it has grown and whether the tumor has spread from its original location.

If the cancer is confined to one location and has not spread, the most common goals for treatment are surgery and cure. This is often the case with skin cancers, as well as cancers of the lung, breast, and colon. If the tumor has spread to local lymph nodes only, sometimes these can also be removed. If surgery cannot remove all of the cancer, the options for treatment include radiation, chemotherapy, or both. Some cancers require a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Although treatment for cancer can be difficult, there are many ways to keep up your strength.

If you have radiation treatment, know that:

The three most common cancers in men in the United States are:

In women in the U.S., the three most common cancers are:

A cancer diagnosis is difficult to cope with. It is important, however, that you discuss the type, size, and location of the cancer with your doctor when you are diagnosed. You also will want to ask about treatment options, along with their benefits and risks.

It's a good idea to have someone with you at the doctor's office to help you get through the diagnosis. If you have trouble asking questions after hearing about your diagnosis, the person you bring with you can ask them for you.