Understand the Most Common Types of Cancer

Paul James  |  February 17, 2016
Understanding the Most Common Types of Cancer

Cancer is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people each year in the UK. Cancer Research UK says that in 2012 alone, an estimated 162,000 people died from cancer - that's 254 deaths per 100,000 people. There are certain types of cancer that are more prevalent than others.  

Every year, World Cancer Day takes place at the start of February in recognition of the effect that cancer has on people across the globe and the importance of raising awareness of the most prevalent forms to reduce the number of individuals affected each year. Although there are over 200 kinds of cancer, the top five most common types in the UK include lung, bowel, breast, prostate and pancreas. The NHS says that these cancers account for about 53 per cent of all new diagnoses. 

These are some of the characteristics of the three most prevalent types: 

1. Lung cancer
Around 44,500 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK every year, and the majority of these are between 70 and 74 years old, says the NHS. Cancer that begins in the lungs is called primary lung cancer. Once it spreads to other parts of the body, it's then referred to as secondary lung cancer. The two types of lung cancer are identified by the cells that invade the body. Non-small-cell cancer is the most prevalent type and involves adenocarcinoma, or large-cell carcinoma, or squamous cell carcinoma. The other less common form of lung cancer is small-cell, which spreads a lot faster than non-small-cell lung cancer.

While there's often a lack of symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, there are a few warning signs of the condition once the cancer begins to spread. These include a persistent cough, unexplained fatigue or weight loss and persistent breathlessness. People with lung cancer may also cough up blood and experience pain when coughing or breathing. Always see your GP if you notice any of these symptoms. 

Have your GP give you a screening if you think you're at risk of lung cancer.Ask your GP to give you a screening if you think you're at risk of lung cancer.

Certain risk factors can contribute to an increased risk of lung cancer. Smoking, for example, is responsible for 85 per cent of lung cancer diagnoses. Radon exposure and secondhand smoke also increase the likelihood of developing lung cancer. Research suggests that exercising, maintaining a healthy diet and quitting smoking will lower your chances of lung cancer.

"The cancer starts in the inner lining of the bowel."

2. Bowel cancer
Bowel cancer, also called colorectal cancer, affects 1 in 20 people throughout the UK. This type of cancer includes both rectal and colon cancer. Rectal cancer involves the back passage of the bowel, while colon cancer occurs when the large bowel is affected. For both forms, the cancer starts in the inner lining of the bowel and begins as a small growth that, when left untreated, becomes cancerous and grows under the lining of the bowel and into the muscle layers. Eventually, the cancerous cells spread through the bowel wall and infect surrounding organs, such as the bladder. According to Cancer Research UK, this usually takes 5-10 years to happen. 

Symptoms often include blood in your stool, a lump in the back passage or abdomen that causes pain, weight loss and a sudden change in normal bowel habits. Sometimes cancer blocks the bowel, leading to bloating, pain in the abdomen and constipation. The most effective way to lower your risk of bowel cancer is eating a healthy diet and avoiding foods like processed red meats.

3. Breast cancer
The NHS says that in 2011, around 50,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK and that 1 in every 100,000 men are diagnosed each year. For men, the cancer forms in the small amount of breast tissue behind their nipples. Breast cancer occurs in women when new cells are produced and grow at a rapid, uncontrollable rate. 

The first noticeable symptom for both men and women is a lump or thickened area around the breast. Nipple discharge, deformation of the nipple - such as it turning in on itself - and a lump or swelling in the armpits are also common warning signs. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the easiest way to lower your risk of developing breast cancer. This includes exercising regularly, eating well and drinking alcohol in moderation. 

At Gracewell care homes, we help our residents to maintain a healthy lifestyle. To find a location near you, contact us today.