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Cancer: Basic Facts*

What Is Cancer?

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it can result in death. Cancer is caused by both external (tobacco, chemicals, radiation, and infectious organisms) and internal factors (inherited mutations, hormones, immune condidtions, and mutations that occur from metabolism). These causal factors may act together or in sequence to initiate or promote carcinogenesis. Ten or more years often pass between exposures or mutations and detectable cancer. Cancer is treated by surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormones, and immunotherapy..

 

Can Cancer Be Prevented?

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2009 about 169,000 deaths are expected to be caused by tobacco use. 19,000 cancer deaths may be related to excessive alcohol use, frequently in combination with tobacco use. All cancer caused by cigarette smoking and heavy use of alcohol could be prevented.

Scientific evidence suggests that about one-third of 562,340 cancer deaths expected to occur in 2009 might be related to nutrition, physical inactivity, overweight or obesity, and other lifestyle factors, and thus could also be prevented. Certain cancers are related to infectious exposures, e.g., hepatitis B virus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and others. These too could be prevented through behavioral changes. In addition, many of the more than 1 million skin cancers that are expected to be diagnosed in 2009 could have been prevented by protection from the sun's rays.

Regular screening examinations by a health care professional can result in the detection of cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, cervix, prostate, oral cavity, and skin at earlier stages, when treatment is more likely to be successful. A heightened awareness of breast changes or skin changes may also result in detection of these tumors at earlier stages. Cancers that can be detected earlier by screening account for about half of all new cancer cases. The 5-year relative survival rate for these cancers is about 84%. If all of these cancers were diagnosed at a localized stage through regular cancer screenings, 5-year survival would increase to about 95%.

 


Who is at Risk of Developing Cancer?

Anyone can develop cancer. Since the occurrence of cancer increases as individuals age, most cases affect adults beginning in middle age. Nearly 77% of all cancers are diagnosed at age 55 and older. Cancer researchers use the word risk in different ways. Liftime risk refers to the probability that an individual, over the course of a lifetime, will develop cancer or die from it. In the US, men have a little less than 1 in 2 risk of developing cancer; for women the risk is a little more than 1 in 3.

 

How Many New Cases are Expected to Occur This Year?

About 1,479,350 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2009. Since 1990, more than 18 million new cancer cases have been diagnosed. These estimates do not include carcinoma in situ (noninvasive cancer) of any site except urinary bladder, and do not include basal and squamous cell skin cancers. More than 1 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year.

 



How is Cancer Staged?

Staging is the process of describing the extent or spread of the disease from the site of origin. Staging is essential in determining the choice of therapy and assessing prognosis. A cancer's stage is based on the primary tumor's size and location in the body and whether it has spread to other areas of the body. A number of different staging systems are used to classify tumors. The TNM staging system assesses tumors in three ways: extent of the primary tumor (T), absence or presence of regional lymph node involvement (N), and absence or presence of distant metastases (M). Once the T,N, and M, are determined, a stage of I, II, III, or IV is assigned, with stage I being early stage and IV being advanced stage. Summary staging (in situ, local, regional, and distant has been useful for descriptive and statistical analysis of tumor registry data. If cancer cells are present only in the layer of cells they developed and they have not spread, then the state is in situ. If cancer cells have spread beyond the original layer of tissue, the cancer is considered invasive.

*Information provided by American Cancer Society, Surveillance Research



Leading Sites of New Cancer Cases and Deaths - 2009 Estimates*

 

Estimated New Cases *
Estimated Deaths
Male
Female
Male
Female
Prostate
192,280

Breast
192,370

Lung & Bronchus
88,900
Lung & Bronchus
70,490

Lung & Bronchus
116,090

Lung & Bronchus
103,350
Prostate
27,360
Breast
40,170

Colon & Rectal
75,590

Colon & Rectal
61,380
Colon & Rectal
25,240
Colon & Rectal
24,680
Urinary Bladder
52,810
Uterine Corpus
42,160
Pancreas
18,030
Ovary
14,600
Melanoma - Skin
39,080
Ovary
21,550
Leukemia
12,590
Pancreas
17,210

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
35,990

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
29,990
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
10,630
Leukemia
9,280

Kidney
22,080

Melanoma - Skin
29,640
Esophagus
11,490
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
10,160
Leukemia
19,020
Thyroid
17,640
Liver
12,090
Uterine Corpus
7,780
Oral Cavity
18,550
Pancreas
16,120
Urinary Bladder
8,780

 

Multiple Myeloma
4,940

 

Pancreas
15,740
Urinary Bladder
18,170
Kidney
8,160
Brain
5,590
All Sites
766,130

All Sites
713,220

All Sites
292,540
All Sites
269,800

*Excludes basal and sqamous cell skin cancers and in situ carcinoma except urinary bladder

*Information provided by American Cancer Society, Surveillance Research



Indiana Lions Cancer Control Fund, Inc.

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