Cancer is defined as an aggressive overgrowth of cells due to accelerated cell division. This event often causes the development of a localized tumor. However, these growths are often benign, or harmless. On the other hand, when rogue cells metastasize, or spread to and attack other regions of the body, they are said to be malignant. This invasion of neighboring tissue is characteristic of many different types of cancer.
There are many factors that can cause cancer, the most prominent being damaged or mutated genetic material. This may occur from chronic exposure to carcinogens, such as chemicals or environmental pollutants. It is also possible to inherit a genetic predisposition for cancer, making certain individuals at higher risk than others. Unfortunately, cancer does not discriminate and may strike anyone of any age at any time. In fact, even an infant may develop cancer while still developing in the womb.
While all 100-plus different types of cancer begin with the abnormal division of a neoplasm, not all result in telltale tumors or lumps. For example, leukemia, a cancer that affects the bone marrow or blood, does not produce tumors. At the same time, unregulated cell division and growth may produce tumors, but they are not indicative of cancer. Uterine fibroids, for instance, are not associated with ovarian or cervical cancer, even though they are still classified as neoplasms.
Breast cancer does produce a tumor or mass, making early detection and treatment easier with this disease than with many other cancers. However, it is also more prevalent than others. In fact, at least one in eight women can expect to be impacted by breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. In addition, men can also get breast cancer.
Different types of cancer, unfortunately, are not as easily detected since they produce little or no symptoms. Prostate cancer, for example, does not produce symptoms in its early stages. In fact, by the time symptoms become apparent, the cancer has usually spread through or even beyond the prostate gland.
Brain cancer may also remain undetected until tumor growth causes damage to certain areas of the brain, or places pressure on adjacent nerves. Either event is likely to cause headaches. However, many people tend to ignore these headaches or attribute them to another cause, such as sinusitis or allergies. Eventually, though, more serious symptoms are bound to surface, such as seizures or difficulty walking or speaking.
Pancreatic cancer is another example of cancer that is rarely detected until it has become advanced. Since it occurs inside the body in the pancreas, it’s unlikely that tumor growth will be spotted before the cancer spreads throughout the organ. In addition, any symptoms that do occur, such as jaundice, usually appear after the cancer has spread to other tissues or organs.
Since there are so many different types of cancer, it makes sense to focus on prevention rather than cure. Adhering to a balanced diet, regular exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits may significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer. If there is a family history of cancer present, a consultation with a physician regarding regular screening and additional preventative measures should be considered.