A typical cancer diagnosis in order of prevalence in the United States usually originates in breast, lung, prostate and colon tissues. Skin cancer is well within the public’s awareness, but it falls just behind bladder cancer in prevalence. It would be rare nowadays for someone to not know someone else either directly or indirectly that is currently being treated for or is in remission from some form of cancer. Many people know of more than one family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor who has died from terminal cancer. On the bright side, the same people now know more people who have successfully beaten various forms of the disease. Cancer can affect any cell in the body, but there are some cancers that are quite rare.
Even the eye is not spared from the possibility of cancer. This is typically a childhood cancer with a prevalence of about 1 in every 20,000 children being diagnosed with the disease. In comparison to the quarter million new breast cancer cases each year in the United States alone, retinoblastoma is rare. The bad news for this cancer is that this cancer usually results in loss of vision in or removal of the affected eye. The good news is it has a cure rate of up to 98 percent. Early diagnosis is crucial and retinal eye shine (leukocoria) and even crossed eyes are symptoms.
This is a rare cancer of the ovaries caused by the spread of gastric signet ring cell cancer (SRCC). Only 2 percent of ovarian cancers are of this type. Gastric cancers are at number four as the most common cancers in the world. The liver is a very common metastatic site for the spread of gastric cancers. Krukenberg tumors can also derive from cancers of the breasts, colon or even the appendix. This type of cancer has a poor life expectancy and is typically diagnosed in women before menopause.
Many are aware of pancreatic cancer even though it is actually considered a rare cancer. Apple founder Steve Jobs and actor Patrick Swayze both died of pancreatic cancer. Less than two percent of pancreatic cancer patients survive beyond five years. Steve Jobs had a neuroendocrine tumor, and that is likely why he lived for eight years after diagnosis. A rare form of pancreatic cancer is a specific neuroendocrine tumor known as a metastatic insulinoma. These tumors are typically benign. A benign tumor does not metastasize (spread to other tissues). Many benign tumors are more amenable to resolution using available medical treatments since there is no risk of them invading distant sites in the body. Insulinoma tumors excrete insulin and can lead to serious issues with hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels). Insulinoma tumors that spread also excrete insulin from the tissue sites where they take up residence.
Cancers develop when a single cell out of the trillion cells that make up body tissues mutates and replicates uncontrollably. Abnormal cells usually die through a process called cellular apoptosis. Cancer cells can live, replicate and spread; one of the ways cancer kills is by invading and crowding out other tissues of the body essential for life such as the lungs that are needed for oxygen or the digestive system needed to take in nutrients. Medical research continues to advance in treatments to extend life and even cure or prevent some cancers. More people are surviving cancer today who would have died from it not all that long ago.