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There are many different types of cancer. Several factors, including the location of the cancer cells and their appearance under the microscope, help determine the specific cancer diagnosis. There are, for example, several forms of breast cancer, classified according to where the tumors originate within the breast and their tendency to invade surrounding organs and tissue.

Despite their type, all cancers fall into one of four broad categories:

  • Carcinomas are tumors that appear in the tissues lining the body's organs. About 80% of all cancer cases are carcinomas.
  • Sarcomas are tumors that originate in the body’s bone, muscle, cartilage, fibrous tissue or fat.
  • Leukemia's are cancers of the blood or blood-forming organs.
  • Lymphomas affect the lymphatic system, which distributes nutrients to the blood and tissue and prevents bacteria and other foreign "invaders" from entering the bloodstream. There are more than 20 types of lymphoma.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the breast tissue. It occurs when some cells in your breast are growing abnormally. Normal breast tissue is made of healthy cells that reproduce new cells that look the same. When you have breast cancer, some cells become abnormal, changing shape. As in all forms of cancer, the abnormal tissue and cells that make up breast cancer multiply uncontrollably. Breast cancer usually begins with the formation of a small, confined tumor (lump), or as calcium deposits (microcalcifications) and then spreads through channels within the breast to the lymph nodes or through the bloodstream to other organs. Some of the early symptoms include a lump in the breast or underarm, swelling in the armpit, pain or tenderness in the breast, and noticeable flattening or indentation on the breast, change in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of the breast. Early detection is key. Therefore, receiving annual mammography screening is very important before the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Breast cancer treatments have come a long way in the past few generations. There are two major goals of breast cancer treatment: to rid the body of the cancer as completely as possible and to prevent the cancer from returning. The type of treatment recommended depends on the size of the tumor, the extent of disease in your lymph nodes, whether or not the tumor has metastasized to other areas of the body and if the presence of the HER2 oncogene and endocrine receptors (estrogen and progesterone receptors) has been detected. Age, menstrual status, underlying health issues, and personal preferences also play an important role in treatment decisions.

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is a form of cancer that originates in the colon or rectum which are parts of the large intestine. The colon is a muscular tube that forms the last part of the digestive tract that absorbs water and stores food waste. The colon and rectum have a smooth lining composed of millions of cells. The cancer forms from uncontrolled cell growth. Changes in these cells can lead to growths called polyps, fleshy clumps of tissue that form on the lining of the colon or rectum. Small polyps usually are not cancerous, but over time, cells in a polyp can change and become cancerous. The larger the polyp grows the more likely it is to become cancerous. As a cancerous tumor grows, it may involve more and more of the colon or rectum. In time, cancer can also grow beyond the colon or rectum and spread to nearby organs or to glands called lymph nodes. The cells can also travel to other parts of the body. This is known as metastasis. Removing polyps early may prevent cancer from ever forming. Classic signs of colon cancer are worsening constipation, blood in the stool, decrease in stool caliber, loss of appetite, loss of weight, and nausea or vomiting. While rectal bleeding or anemia are high-risk features in those over the age of 50, other commonly described symptoms including weight loss and change in bowel habit are typically only concerning if associated with bleeding. Treatments include surgery to remove the cancerous parts of the colon and rectum, chemotherapy (which uses medication to attack cancer cells throughout the body), and radiation (for rectal cancer) which uses high-energy x-rays to kill a certain group of targeted cancerous cells in the area of the body that is affected.

Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancers most commonly occur in the lips or tongue, but many also occur in the floor of the mouth, cheek lining, gums or palate. There are several types of head and neck cancers including larynx, mouth, oral cavity, pharynx, thyroid, salivary, sinus, and nasal cancer. Alcohol and tobacco play a significant role in causing head and neck cancers. Cigar smoking and smokeless tobacco is an etiologic agent for oral and pharyngeal cancers. Other environmental factors include exposures to nickel refining, textile fibers, and woodworking. Cigarette smokers have a lifetime increased the risk for head and neck cancers. 90% of head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC), Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most frequent malignant tumor of the head and neck region. Symptoms may vary on placement of cancer, but some include: mass in the neck, neck pain, bleeding from the mouth, sinus congestion, bad breath, sore tongue, painless ulcer or sores in the mouth that do not heal, white or red dark spots that will not go away, earache, unusual bleeding or numbness in the mouth, lump in the lip, mouth or gums, enlarged lymph glands in the neck, sore throat which persists for more than six weeks, difficulty swallowing food, and change in diet or weight loss. Treatments include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapy.

Kidney Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 38,900 people in the United States will develop kidney cancer in 2006. Men are affected nearly twice as often as women. The treatment of kidney cancer includes surgery, immunotherapy or biologic therapy. Dallas Oncology is currently participating in a nationwide clinical trial for kidney cancer that has recently been surgically removed.


More than 35,000 people will be diagnosed with leukemia in 2006. Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells, the cells that help our body fight off infections. Leukemia's can be chronic or acute. Many advances have recently been made in the treatment of chronic leukemias. Currently, available treatments include chemotherapy, biologic therapy and in some cases, stem cell transplantation.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a lung tumor characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. It usually starts in the lining of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs), but can also begin in other areas such as the bronchioles (passageways by which air passes through the nose or mouth) or the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs. Lung cancers are generally divided into two types: non-small lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. There are three types of non-small cell lung cancer that make up about 85% to 90% of lung cancers:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (also called epidermoid carcinoma) that often begins in the bronchi near the middle of the lungs
  • Adenocarcinoma which usually begins along the outer edges of the lungs. This is the most common type of lung cancer in people who have never smoked.
  • Large cell carcinomas which are a group of cancers with large, abnormal-looking cells. These tumors may begin anywhere in the lungs and tend to grow quickly.

Small cell lung cancer is often called oat cell cancer because cancer cells may look like oats when viewed under the microscope. This form of cancer grows rapidly and quickly spreads to other organs. There are two stages of small cell lung cancer:

  • The limited stage is where the cancer is generally found in only 1 lung. There may also be cancer in the nearby lymph nodes on the same side of the chest.
  • The extensive state is where the cancer has spread beyond the primary tumor in the lung into other parts of the body.

Symptoms of lung cancer vary depending on its location, but the most common symptoms are constant chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, recurring lung infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, bloody or rust-colored sputum, hoarseness, swelling of the neck caused by a tumor that is pressing on a large blood vessel or nerves in the lung, and fever for unknown reason. Treatment for lung cancer depends on the cancer’s specific cell type and how far it has spread. Common treatments include palliative care, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.