What Are The Different Types Of Cancer?

As discussed in an earlier article Cancer is an umbrella term that is used to refer to diseases as a result of which the abnormal cells in a body divide and invade other tissues. The term includes more than 200 types of this disease which are far too many to be listed in an introductory article.

The NCI (National Cancer Institute, U.S.) lists the general categories under which these different cancer types can be clubbed. The general categories and examples of types of cancers in that specific category are provided along. This is not an all inclusive list.

Types of Cancers

  • Carcinoma: This type of cancers begins in the skin or the tissue that line the internal organs. Skin, colon, lung, ovarian are examples of carcinomas. Carcinoma further has subtypes that include adenomas, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and transitional cell carcinoma.
  •  Sarcoma: This type of cancer begins in the bone, cartilage, muscle, fat, blood vessels or supportive tissues. Quite rare, different types of sarcomas take their name from the different types of tissue that they represent. For example, osteosarcoma resembles a bone and a chondrosarcoma resembles cartilage. Other examples of sarcomas are – liposarcoma (fat) and leiomyosarcoma that resembles smooth muscle.
  •  Leukemia: This type of cancer begins in the tissues responsible for blood formation. The bone marrow is an example of blood forming tissues. The effect of leukemia is that a large number of abnormal blood cells are produced. These abnormal cells move into the blood. Examples of leukemia are – lymphoblastic leukemias (ALL and CLL), myelogenous leukemias (AML and CML), T-cell leukemia, and hairy-cell leukemia.
  •  Lymphoma, Myeloma & Leukemia: This type of cancer begins in the immune system cells. T-cell lymphomas, B-cell lymphomas, Hodgkin lymphomas, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and lymphoproliferative lymphomas are examples of cancers falling in this category.
  •  Central nervous system cancers: This type of cancer begins in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord. Examples of this type of cancers are gliomas, meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, vestibular schwannomas, primary CNS lymphomas, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors.

Metastatic Cancers

In this list we have not discussed metastatic cancers. Metastatic cancer cells can arise from any of the above mentioned cell types that have been discussed above. What makes metastatic cancers different from the above categories are that these cells may be present in tissue other than that of origin. It is important that the tissue from which the cancer cells arose should be mentioned along with the term ‘metastatic cancer’.

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 Cancers diagnosed with highest frequency

 Cancers that are diagnosed with the highest frequency the world over are enumerated below. Please note that the order in which the different types of cancers appears is not indicative of their frequency.

  •  Female Breast Cancer

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  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Cancers of the Lip and Oral Cavity
  • Nasopharyngeal Cancer


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  • A lawyer by profession, social worker and a fighter against cancer