The treatment of cancer is a long, and often difficult, process – cancer survival can improve with early diagnosis and treatment
Until recently, heart disease was the condition responsible for the most deaths in Americans below the age of 85. Statistics now show that this position has been replaced by cancer. According to research, every year more than one and a quarter million people across the United States of America are diagnosed with some form of cancer. Out of these, there are about half a million that do not manage to survive.
It is a fact that, in the last few years, the death toll associated with cancer is steadily decreasing. The total percentage of all the cancer patients who manage to survive for more than five years has risen significantly for the last twenty years. The progress in cancer prevention, research, treatment and detection techniques has led to the decrease in mortality rates associated with cancer and is gradually improving the rates of survival. Based on statistics, over 10 million people living in the United States of America have been diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lives. Out of these, there are people who have been fully cured while the rest may be undergoing treatment.
It has been seen that individuals and families who are thoroughly aware of their condition are more knowledgeable and sure in terms of decision making related to treatment options. There are now a number of detection techniques that enable doctors to detect cancers at an early stage. If cancer is detected at initial stages, there are more chances of complete resolution and removal of cancer from the body without loss of excessive natural tissues, or highly invasive procedures.
Nomenclature: classifications of cancer tumors
According to Eyre, Lange and Morris 2002, the classification of the cancerous lesions is based on their site of origin in the body, and the type of cells that they have originated from.
Carcinomas: There are the cancers that grow from the epithelial tissues which are found in the majority of the body organs. Carcinomas are not restricted to one place and can occur in any part of the body. 80 – 90 % of all the cancers diagnosed all over the world are carcinomas. This type cancer is divided into two types namely adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas.
- Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinomas start from the cells of the glands which secrete a specific substance such as saliva, milk, enzymes etc. These glands may include the stomach, breast and colon, which are the most common sites for adenocarcinomas.
- Squamous cell carcinomas: These grow from the flat cells which cover the surfaces of various organs including the skin. Most of the cancers of the neck and head region are squamous cell carcinomas. These are increasing rapidly in North America and are linked with Ultraviolet radiations.
Sarcoma tumors: Sarcoma cancers arise from the connective tissues of the body. The connective tissues include bone, muscle, cartilage and fat. There is a specific prefix which is reserved for the different types of sarcoma tumors based on the site from which they originated. For instance, the sarcoma which starts from the tissues of bone is known as osteosarcoma. The sarcoma which originates from fat tissues is called liposarcoma. And finally, sarcoma which originates from involuntary muscles is known as leiyomyosarcoma. Sarcomas are usually malignant and can spread throughout the body.
Lymphomas: Lymphomas are the types of cancers which originate from the lymphoid tissues that are primarily located in the lymph nodes, thymus, spleen, tonsils and other lymphoid organs. Lymphomas are divided broadly into two main types namely the Hodgkin’s and non- Hodgkin’s lymphomas. These two types are further sub divided into more types.
Leukemias: Leukemias are the cancers which start in the cells of the blood. Malignant cancer cells have the ability to circulate throughout the body via the bloodstream, which is why leukemia is not a cancer of a particular part of the body, but affects the body as a whole, unlike other cancers. The classification of leukemias depends upon the blood cells from which they originated. There are several subtypes of leukemias.
Multiple myeloma: Multiple myeloma is the cancer or tumor which initiates from the cells of the bone marrow. The bone marrow is the soft material which is located within the bones. There are other types of cancers that also affect the bone marrow.
Nervous system tumors: All the cancers of the nervous system are named according to the particular cells from which they originated. For instance, Astrocytoma is the cancer which starts from the astrocyte cells, and ependymoma is the cancer which originates from ependymal cells. There are some tumors of the nervous system whose names include the site of the cancer. For instance, spinal cord ependymoma, or brain stem glioma.
Germ cell tumors: Germ cell tumors are ones which originate from the cells of the reproductive systems, i.e. the ovaries and the testicles. These can be benign or malignant.
The most important fact about cancer is that the earlier that it is detected or diagnosed, the higher the chances of survival a person has.
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (2006). Facts and Statistics. Site at: http://www.canceradvocacy.org/
Coleman, C. Norman. 2006. Understanding Cancer: A Patient’s Guide to Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Treatment. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
A professor of radiation oncology from Harvard Medical School guides patients through the decision-making process right after diagnosis and through the illness. Describing and explaining the various diagnostic tests and treatment options available, the book’s purpose is to help patients evaluate risks and benefits and make decisions together with their doctors. Checklists and case studies help to illustrate how cancer patients can play an active role in determining their own treatment plan.
Teeley, Peter, and Philip Bashe. 2005. The Complete Cancer Survival Guide: The Most Comprehensive, Up-to-Date Guide for Patients and Their Families; With Advice from Dozens of Leading Cancer Specialists at More than ’30 Major Cancer Centers. Rev. and updated ed. New York: Broadway Books.
This comprehensive book offers detailed guidance based on interviews with cancer specialists from top cancer centers. The text covers the 25 most common forms of cancer, including diagnosis and staging, what to expect during treatment, how to take control of symptoms, side effects, and complications.
American Cancer Society. (2006). Cancer facts figures 2007. Atlanta, GA
This article was originally published on November 12, 2014 and last revision and update was 9/14/2015