Cancer Types and Symptoms

Cancer Types and Symptoms

cancer typesThe most common type of cancer in the United States is non-melanoma skin cancer, with more than 2,000,000 new cases expected in the United States in 2011.

Non-melanoma skin cancers represent about half of all cancers diagnosed in this country. Most form in older people on parts of the body exposed to the sun or in people who have weakened immune systems. Non-melanoma skin cancers are usually surgically removed and survival rates are very high.


The most common sign is a change in the appearance of the skin. You should see a doctor if you notice any suspicious changes in your skin. The next most common cancers in the United States are breast, lung, colorectal and prostate cancers:

Breast Cancer
Cancer that forms in tissues of the breast. While breast cancer can in theory develop in any tissue of the breast, it usually occurs in the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk).

  • New Cases in 2011 - an estimated 288,130 women and 2,140 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.

  • Signs and symptoms - Common symptoms of breast cancer include:
    • A change in how the breast or nipple feels
      • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
      • Nipple tenderness
    • A change in how the breast or nipple looks
      • A change in the size or shape of the breast
      • A nipple turned inward into the breast
      • The skin of the breast, areola, or nipple may be scaly, red, or swollen. It may have ridges or pitting so that it looks like the skin of an orange
    • Nipple discharge (fluid)
Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain. Still, a woman should see her health care provider about breast pain or any other symptom that does not go away. Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. Other health problems may also cause them. Any woman with these symptoms should tell her doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Lung Cancer
 Cancer that forms in tissues of the lungs, the two spongy organs found in the chest that are responsible for delivering oxygen to the bloodstream. The right lung has three sections called lobes. The left lung has only two lobes. Lung cancer is divided into two main categories – small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) ) is the less common kind of lung cancer and accounts for about 20% of all lung cancers. SCLC is more aggressive than non small cell lung cancer because is grows more quickly and is more likely to spread to other organs.

Non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
is the more common kind of lung cancer, accounting for 80% of all lung cancers. NSCLC is generally slower growing than SCLC and is divided into three different types based on how the cells look that make it up - adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

  • New Cases in 2010 - an estimated 222,520 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in the United States. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, among both men and women. It claims more lives than colon, prostate and breast cancer combined.

  • Signs and symptoms - A cough is the most common presenting symptom of lung cancer; however, many long term smokers have a chronic cough, so it is especially important for someone with a chronic cough to see their doctor if their cough changes in character or severity. Most patients (85%-90%) who are diagnosed with lung cancer have symptoms that prompt a doctor to order tests to look for a problem. Other symptoms of lung cancer are non-specific, and could represent a variety of different conditions. If you have any of these symptoms and they persist, you should see a doctor:
    • cough (especially one that doesn't go away or gets worse in character)
    • chest pain
    • shortness of breath
    • coughing up blood or bloody phlegm
    • new onset hoarseness or wheezing
    • recurrent problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
To go to OncoLink, the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s award-winning cancer resource - the oldest, largest, and most trusted source for cancer information on the Internet click here.
Colorectal Cancer
 Cancer that occurs in the colon, the longest portion of the large intestine, also known as the large bowel, is called colon cancer. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they're often referred to as colorectal cancers.
  • New Cases in 2011 - an estimated 101,700 adults will be diagnosed with colon cancer; an additional 39,510 will be diagnosed with rectal cancer in the United States.
  • Signs and Symptoms: Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they'll likely vary, depending on the cancer's size and location in your large intestine. As the polyp grows into a tumor, it may bleed or obstruct the colon, causing symptoms. These symptoms include:
    • A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool for more than a couple of weeks
    • Bleeding from the rectum
    • Blood in the stool or toilet after a bowel movement
    • A change in the shape of the stool (i.e. thinning)
    • Persistent discomfort in the abdomen, such as cramps, gas or pain
    • Feeling the need to have a bowel movement when you don't actually have to
    • A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
As you can see, these symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than cancer. So, if you experience these symptoms, especially for a prolonged period of time, you should see a doctor.

To go to OncoLink, the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s award-winning cancer resource - the oldest, largest, and most trusted source for cancer information on the Internet click here.
Prostate Cancer
Cancer that forms in tissues of the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Prostate cancer usually occurs in older men. It usually grows slowly, so many men have prostate cancer but are unaware of it. Sometimes, however, prostate cancer will grow and spread quickly. Prostate cancer is highly curable when detected and treated early.
  • New cases in 2010 - An estimated 217,730 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in the United States.
  • Signs and symptoms- Early signs and symptoms of prostate cancer can include urinary problems, caused when the prostate tumor presses on the bladder or on the tube that carries urine from the bladder (urethra). However, urinary symptoms are much more commonly caused by benign prostate problems, such as an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) or prostate infections. Less than 5 percent of cases of prostate cancer have urinary problems as the initial symptom. When urinary signs and symptoms do occur, they can include:
    • Trouble urinating
    • Starting and stopping while urinating
    • Decreased force in the stream of urine
To go to OncoLink, the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s award-winning cancer resource - the oldest, largest, and most trusted source for cancer information on the Internet click here.

Key Patient Contacts

Louise M. Baca RN MSN - Cancer Center Administrator

Oncology Nurse Navigator
Appointment scheduling and treatment navigation.

Abigale Hassel, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C - Social Worker
Patient support and information.

Cancer Center Accreditations

Commission on Cancer, ACR, NAPBC, Screening Center of Excellence

Upcoming Classes

Art Discovery Workshops - 06/22/2016
The act of creating art in a nourishing, peaceful environment often allows the mind and body to relax, to experience stillness, a zone of acceptance that carries on to daily activity. Explore your creativity through various art techniques, including drawing, painting, collage, and clay in a supportive and playful environment.



Well-Being Yoga - Tuesday Afternoon - 06/28/2016
Yoga, which increases flexibility, range of motion and strength, may bring additional benefits both during and after cancer treatments. When tension is released, energy flows more easily in the body, allowing participants to experience a sense of well-being.