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The Five Major Types of Cancer

Updated on March 17, 2014
Cardisa profile image

Carolee is a passionate writer with a love for learning and teaching. She is a published author, poet, blogger, and content creator.

Abnormal cell growth
Abnormal cell growth

What is Cancer?

This is one of the most dreaded words anyone could hear. People shy away from getting initial examinations which could potentially save their lives because they dread hearing the word 'cancer'. Lets us first define cancer and then we will explore it.

There are actually more than one hundred types of growth known as cancer. We often refer to any type of cell growth whether harmful or not as cancer. This is quite misleading as cancer refers to that type of cell growth with these two characteristics:-

  1. Uncontrolled cell growth
  2. Ability to spread through the blood, lymph and other parts of the body

Each type of cancer is different and has its own markers. For the person living with cancer, it is recommended that they learn which cancer they have because each cancer has its own treatment and is treated differently. Some cancers spread rapidly while others are slow spreading. While some cancers are curable and there are those that cannot be cured even with modern medicine.

Here are some terms used to describe cell growth and should be used in the right context to avoid confusion.

  • Tumor- any abnormal swelling that may be due to an infection, inflammation or cancer. A tumor is not necessarily a cancer but all cancers are tumors. If you know that you have cancer you may refer to it as tumor(s), but if you have a swelling or enlargement that has not been diagnosed you must never refer to it as cancer because it could very well be a simple inflammation.
  • Malignant- this the dangerous type of growth that needs to be treated or operated on. This is cancer. All malignant growths are cancer and all cancers are malignant.
  • Benign- the opposite of malignant. This is the type of growth or tumor that your doctor will tell you is not cancerous at all. This growth will not spread or cause any damage unless it grows near a vital organ. A benign tumor is not cancer nor is cancer benign.
  • Neoplasm- any overgrowth of cells which can be malignant or benign. So some neoplasms are cancer while some are not. Your overgrowth needs to be diagnosed before making a determination as to whether or not they are cancer.
  • Lesion- an abnormal area such as ulcers and bruises. These lesions can be either malignant or benign. A diagnosis needs to be made to determine their condition.

Basics of Cancer surgery

The Five Basic Types of Cancer

Each type of cancer is dependent on where the cancer started. The Pathologist will do a test to tell where each cancer originated by looking under a microscope. Each cancer cell will have the characteristics of the organ where it started. For example cancer which started in the lungs will have lung cells.

Here is how the five basic cancer cells are defined:-

  • Carcinoma - the cancer that starts in the lining of an organ or the covering tissues.
  • Sarcoma - start in the muscles, blood vessels, nerves and tendons (soft tissues)
  • Lymphoma - this cancer growth originates in the lymph system such as the lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels.
  • Leukemia - this type of cancer starts in the white blood cells
  • Multiple myeloma - this cancer starts in the bone marrow in the plasma cells.

When diagnosed with cancer of the skin, lung or breast, the diagnosing physician(s) will run test or biopsies to determine the type of cancer and where it originated. This will help them to determine treatment and determine prognosis.

Source of Reference: Diagnosis Cancer by Dr. Wendy Schlessel Harpham.


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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Greetings, Cardisa,

      I enjoyed this hub for its helpful information. Information is the sharpest tool in the battle against cancer. I think. I voted up and away on this hub. It was very in-depth and to-the-point.

      Keep up the great work.

      Now I cordially-invite you to check a couple of my hubs and then be one of my followers.

      I would love that.


      Kenneth Avery/ from northwest Alabama

    • profile image

      Emerald Strachan 5 years ago

      Hi Patricia, carcinoid tumors are not considered cancers since they are not malignant but they can still cause complications that will affect the health. These tumors develop in organs that produce hormones and the tumors themselves have the ability to give off hormones that can make you sick. Since carcinoid tumors are not malignant, chemotherapy has no effect so they are usually removed via surgery.

    • profile image

      Patricia 5 years ago

      Is carcinoid (neuroendicrine tumors) another type of cancer? Thank you.

    • profile image

      Emerald Strachan 6 years ago

      Thank you Lesleysherwood. :))

      @Rob Winters, thank you so much for your very wonderful comment.

    • Rob Winters profile image

      Rob Winters 6 years ago

      Emerald, this is a very comprehensive and well written article on the subject of cancer.Everybody has heard of cancer but i imagine many don't know what it is exactly - you've certainly taken care of that.Welcome to hubpages :-)I've voted it up,useful and interesting.

    • profile image

      Lesleysherwood 6 years ago

      You have so much knowledge! Vote UP.

    • profile image

      Emerald Strachan 6 years ago

      Bee Erikson, thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate it.

    • profile image

      Emerald Strachan 6 years ago

      @ThoughtSandwiches, you are right. This is a topic people shy away from because they are scared of the outcome. Catching cancer in the early stages could save your life. Thanks for the follow and leaving a comment.

      @Huba90, thank you very much for the vote.

      @Jami l. pereira, thank you so much. I really appreciate the welcome.

      @VENZKHVAM, thank you for your positive critique and warm welcome.

      @Brinafr3sh, thank you very muck.

      @Ubanichijioke, thank you very much and Bless you too.

      Thanks you guys for all the wonderful comments. I feel really welcomed.

    • Bee Erikson profile image

      Beryl Dingemans 6 years ago from Amsterdam, The Netherlands

      Very informative and interesting. Many thanks for sharing this with us.

    • ubanichijioke profile image

      Alexander Thandi Ubani 6 years ago from Lagos

      Thanks for this piece. I so much appreciate this piece of information. It is so vital and helpful. Bless you

    • Brinafr3sh profile image

      Brinafr3sh 6 years ago from West Coast, United States


      This hub is education, thanks.

    • profile image

      jami l. pereira 6 years ago

      Well written and informative , i voted up and interesting , and useful , lots of information , good to know , thanks for the read:) Welcome to Hub pages ! Good luck!:)

    • VENZKHVAM profile image

      VENZKHVAM 6 years ago from Milk way galaxy, trying to find a more adventurous place in another galaxy with my great followers


      As far as your hub is concerned well explained and classified hub on cancer.

      The different type of tumors are well explained the the videos of Dr Robert IS INFORMATIVE TOO

      I had voted this up and also useful

      With war regards

      Dinesh Nair

    • huba90 profile image

      huba90 6 years ago from Egypt

      Very useful hub,and Thanks for sharing it with us Emerald.

      Useful and Voted Up

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Hi Emerald...Welcome to Hubpages!! This is a rough topic you have begun with but 'not talking' about it is, as you point out, probably not the best approach to take.

      I guess it is better to hear that you have cancer and they can do this, that, and this opposed have cancer and had you come in a year ago...we could have done this, that, and this again. Voted Up and useful!