A Guide to Their Symptoms, Investigations and Treatment
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You might think a cancer diagnosis is the worst thing that could happen to you. But for most people, it’s the best thing that could happen to them. A cancer diagnosis means you discovered your tumor early enough to get treatment and have a high probability of surviving the disease long-term.
Cancer is not just one condition but many different diseases that occur when cells begin growing uncontrollably and form tumors. These tumors are called “malignant” because they can invade and destroy other tissues nearby.
Recently I published an article on the basics of cancer. If you have not read it, you can read it here-
In this article we will learn in short about some common cancers. Learning more about 7 of the most common cancers in men and women may help you recognize any concerning symptoms sooner than later.
Keep reading to learn more about these seven cancers, as well as potential risk factors, prevention methods, and available treatments.
What Are the 7 Most Common Cancers in Men and Women?
The 7 most common cancers in men and women are:
- lung cancer,
- colorectal cancer,
- breast cancer,
- pancreatic cancer,
- prostate cancer,
- bladder cancer, and
- Cervical cancer and uterine cancer
It is the most common type of cancer in both men and women, with nearly 20% of men and 13% of women diagnosed with the disease every year. According to the American Cancer Society, rates of lung cancer are increasing among women, whereas rates are decreasing among men.
The most common causes of lung cancer are smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women, with more than 160,000 people dying from lung cancer every year.
Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common form of lung cancer, accounting for 80% of cases. Small cell lung cancers are more common in women than men.
Lung cancers are often found in patients who have long-term exposure to inhaled substances that can damage cells and cause tumors to develop.
Risk factors for lung cancer
Cigarette smoking is clearly the most important risk factor for developing lung cancer. Other risk factors include radon gas, asbestos exposure and air pollution from cars or factories that burn coal or other fossil fuels.
Investigations for lung cancer
- Chest X-rays
- Computed Tomography (CT) scans
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans
- Lung biopsy
- Blood tests
It is the second most common form of cancer among both men and women, making it the third-leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S. Colorectal cancer is responsible for almost 50,000 deaths each year, making it critically important to detect and treat the disease as early as possible.
Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer after lung cancer. This cancer is more common in people aged 50 years and over. Having a family history of colorectal cancer puts you at a higher risk of getting this disease. Other risk factors include:
Diets high in red meat, processed meat and alcohol intake
Smoking and passive smoking (i.e. exposure to smoke from other people’s cigarettes)
Investigations for Colorectal cancer
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
- Double Contrast Barium Enema
- CT Colonography
- Stool Tests for occult blood [ blood that is not visible to naked eye but seen by microscope]
It is the third most common form [1 in 3] of all cancers among women and the second-most common among men.
Approximately 266,000 women and 39,000 men in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women under the age of 40, as well as the most common form of cancer death in women under the age of 49.
Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women between the ages of 40 and 55. It is also the fifth most common cause of cancer death in women. The lifetime risk of breast cancer in the United States is 1 in 8. The risk for breast cancer increases with age, with a peak incidence between ages 50-70.
Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms:
Breast pain, tenderness or swelling, or nipple discharge (other than breast milk) can be symptoms of breast cancer. A new lump in the breast or armpit could also be a symptom of breast cancer.
Other symptoms are more general such as fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats. Lymph nodes that are swollen or painful may also be a sign of breast cancer or another condition called fibrocystic disease.
How to Diagnose
Diagnosis is done by –
- Physical examination
- Fine needle aspiration biopsy
It is the eight most common form of cancer in men and women. Research suggests that the rate of pancreatic cancer is increasing among men, while the rate of pancreatic cancer is decreasing among women.
The most common cause of getting this cancer is smoking.
The pancreas is a large gland that makes hormones and enzymes that help your body digest food. Cancer of the pancreas can develop anywhere in the pancreas, but it usually starts in the head of the organ.
Pancreatic cancer is often found at a late stage, when it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs. This cancer can also spread to distant sites such as the liver, lungs, bones, or brain.
Investigations for pancreatic cancer
Your doctor might suggest these tests if he/she is suspecting pancreatic cancer-
- Abdominal imaging (CT scan, MRI, ultrasound)
- Endoscopic ultrasound
- Tissue biopsy
- CA 19-9 blood test
- Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) blood test
- Liver function tests
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
Treatment of pancreatic cancer
Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on several factors including how far the disease has progressed and whether it has spread outside the pancreas. Surgery may be an option for early-stage pancreatic cancer depending on where the tumor is located within the pancreas. Other treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy (immunotherapy), or a combination of these treatments.
Useful resource-Prostate cancer treatment
In my previous article on prostate disease, I had made a brief mention about prostate cancer.
It is the second-most common form of cancer among men. Approximately 161,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, making it the most common form of cancer in men.
While early-stage prostate cancer is highly treatable, the disease is often diagnosed at a later stage, making treatment less successful.
Investigations for prostate cancer
Your surgeon may recommend these investigations if prostate cancer is suspected-
- Digital rectal exam (DRE)
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
- Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS)
- Prostate biopsy
It is the fifth-most common form of cancer in men and the 15th-most common form of cancer in women. Approximately 60,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year, making it the 12th-most common cause of cancer death in the U.S.
Brief note on bladder cancer-
Signs and Symptoms:
Common signs and symptoms include-
- Blood in the urine
- Pain or burning sensation during urination
- Frequent urination
- Lower back pain
- Loss of appetite
Your doctor might suggest these investigations–
- Urine cytology
- Imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Biopsy of the bladder
- Urodynamic tests
- Urine tumor markers
Cervical cancer and uterine cancer
These are two types of cancer that commonly affect women, even though the other parts of the female genital tract like the ovaries, fallopian tubes and vagina can also get cancer.
Around 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, making it the third-most common form of cancer in women.
Cervical and uterine cancer are serious threats to women’s health, and it’s important to be aware of them so that they can be caught early.
This is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV), and it can be prevented with a vaccine. Signs and symptoms of the cancer include irregular vaginal bleeding, pain during intercourse, and unusual discharge.
To diagnose cervical cancer, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and PAP smear to look for abnormal cells. Other tests, such as a biopsy, may also be used.
This is usually found during a routine pelvic exam, and it can be detected with an ultrasound or other imaging tests.
Symptoms may include abnormal or dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB), pelvic pain, and pain during intercourse. It’s important to speak to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
Both cervical and uterine cancers can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Early detection is key to successful treatment, so it’s important to get regular checkups and screenings.
I have narrated in brief about 7 of the common cancers in both men and women, some specific to each gender. There are many more cancers that affect us human beings. I hope this article has been useful to you.
I will further discuss in detail each of these cancers in my upcoming blogs.
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My next article will be on Nutrition- Different types of Nuts that help us improve our Health.