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40. What's My Type of Cancer?

The precise type of cancer you have is important because each type has different survival rates, different ways of being treated and those treatments have different side effects.

  • Questions...
  • A) So... what type of cancer do I have and what are my odds of survival?
  • B) Do many people get my type of cancer?
  • C) Has my cancer spread to other organs?
  • Practical Tips...
  • Among men, remember that over 40% of all cancers are either prostate or colon – both with very high survival rates. And among women with cancer, over 40% are diagnosed with either breast or colon cancer. Both cancers also have high survival rates. Just over 10% of both men and women with cancer have lung cancer – where the 5-year survival rate is about 15%. But early detection of this cancer vastly expands treatment options and the chances of long-term survival.
  • Some cancers are considered "rare" and account for a small percentage of the 1.4 million Americans diagnosed each year with some form of the disease. The main concern with rare cancers is that they do not attract the "big bucks" for research, so it is harder to discover advances in treatment. Also, there are fewer specialists so a patient may have to travel some distance to find one, and they could be "out-of-network" with the patient’s HMO insurance.
  • Remember that a hallmark of cancer is that cells in the original or "primary site" tumor can hive off, travel through the bloodstream and colonize in another organ. That process, which creates "secondary site" tumors, is called Metastasize, and oncologists often speak of such a cancer as having "mets." But the cancer in the secondary site is the same as the original cancer. For example, if lung cancer metastasizes to the brain, that secondary site is not, technically, "brain cancer," but rather lung cancer now colonized to an additional organ.