Understanding Different Types of Cancer

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Cancer is a disease in which cells grow out of control, forming abnormal masses of tissue called tumors. Over 100 different types of cancer can occur in the human body. If cancer is detected early, treatment is often more effective.  At Valley Surgical RGV, our team of oncology specialists provides individualized, evidence-based treatment for all types of cancer. We offer a comprehensive range of oncology services, including surgical procedures, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and supportive care. Using advanced technologies and a personalized medicine approach, we aim to develop customized treatment plans that provide each patient with optimal outcomes.

Our skilled oncologists stay up-to-date on the latest cancer research to ensure patients can access state-of-the-art care. We aim to support patients through every step of their cancer journey with expert medical treatment, compassion, and understanding. Some of the common types of cancer we diagnose include:

Breast cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women. According to research, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives. While men can also get breast cancer, it is approximately 100 times more common in women. Breast cancer forms when abnormal cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells often form tumors that can be seen on imaging tests like mammograms. Some warning signs of breast cancer may include a new lump in the breast, changes in breast size or shape, or abnormal nipple discharge. However, early-stage breast cancers often do not have any noticeable symptoms. This is why we recommend regular screening through mammography and self-exams.

Multiple factors can influence a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Some non-modifiable risk factors include being female, aging, family history, and dense breast tissue. Certain lifestyle factors may increase risk, such as alcohol consumption, being overweight, hormone therapy, and not having children. Understanding your personal risk factors allows you to be proactive about screening and prevention. At Valley Surgical RGV, our team stays up-to-date on the latest research and clinical practices around breast cancer. We know that early detection saves lives. That is why we promote regular screenings and encourage women to know what is normal for their bodies. If breast cancer is detected, there are many effective treatment options available, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted drugs. With the right treatment plan, many women go on to live full, healthy lives after breast cancer.

Prostate Cancer 
Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among men in the United States. Our medical team sees many patients coping with this disease. The prostate is a small gland that sits below the bladder and surrounds the urethra. It is responsible for producing seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. When cancer develops in the prostate, it can squeeze the urethra, causing urinary and sexual dysfunction. Early prostate cancer often has no symptoms, which is why screening is so essential for catching it early.

Some signs of prostate cancer to look out for include changes in urination, difficulty starting or stopping urine flow, blood in urine or semen, erectile dysfunction, and unexplained weight loss. If prostate cancer spreads, it often goes to the bones first, which can cause pain in the hips, back, or other areas. If these symptoms appear, patients should schedule a screening right away. Catching prostate cancer early dramatically improves survival odds. While the exact causes of prostate cancer are not fully understood, certain risk factors can increase a man’s likelihood of developing the disease. Age is a significant risk factor, rising significantly after age 50. Race also plays a role, as Black men face a higher risk of prostate cancer and more aggressive forms. Having a close family member diagnosed also raises risk. Obesity and high calcium intake may also contribute, though more research is needed.

The good news is that prostate cancer is highly treatable if caught early. We perform digital rectal exams to feel for abnormalities in the prostate and order PSA blood tests as recommended. If cancer is detected, we work closely with patients to create a customized treatment plan. With regular screening and early treatment, many men go on to live healthy lives after prostate cancer.

Lung Cancer
The most common cancer overall is when men and women are combined. Of all cancer types, lung cancer accounts for the most cancer-related deaths globally. It usually starts in the cells lining the air passages. The signs and symptoms of lung cancer typically occur when the disease is at an advanced stage rather than early on. Persistent coughing, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, bone pain, headaches, and weight loss are common symptoms that may indicate lung cancer, especially later stages. Lung cancer is mainly caused by damage to lung cells from exposure to carcinogens. The primary carcinogens linked to lung cancer are cigarette smoke, secondhand smoke, radon gas, asbestos, air pollution, and radiation therapy to the chest.

Several risk factors can increase the chances of developing lung cancer: Cigarette smoking, especially heavy and long-term, significantly raises lung cancer risk. Quitting can help reduce risk over time. Secondhand smoke exposure increases lung cancer risk even for non-smokers. Previous chest radiation therapy can improve the chances of lung cancer later in life. Exposure to radon gas from soil and water accumulating in buildings also raises risk. Workplace contact with carcinogens like chromium, asbestos, nickel, arsenic, and others may increase risk, especially for smokers. Having a close relative with lung cancer also raises an individual’s risk.

Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer affects the colon and rectum. Sometimes grouped, colorectal cancers are prevalent and affect the large intestine and rectum. If you notice any persistent changes in your gastrointestinal health or the following symptoms, see your doctor promptly: blood in your stool or rectal bleeding, ongoing diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain or cramps that don’t go away, unintentional weight loss, feeling weak and tired, and having consistently narrow stools. The exact causes are unclear, but DNA changes in cells likely play a role – changes in specific genes can lead to uncontrolled cell growth. Noncancerous polyps can also form on the colon’s inner walls. Some polyp types increase cancer risk if they become cancerous. Cancer cells can also spread through the blood or lymph system from tumors to other body parts. This spread, called metastasis, makes cancer more serious.

Several risk factors can increase colorectal cancer risk. Polyps in the colon, especially adenomas, can become cancerous if not removed. Genetic mutations and inherited conditions like Lynch syndrome also increase polyps and colon cancer risk. Older age is another factor, as most cases occur in those over 50.  Certain lifestyle factors play a role, too, like inactivity, obesity, smoking, a diet low in fiber and high in saturated fat, red meat, alcohol, and processed meats. Underlying conditions like a history of polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, other cancers, and obesity can also increase risk. At our center, we have extensive experience treating patients with colorectal cancer at all stages, including those with straightforward cases and complex conditions requiring specialized expertise. Our gastroenterologists, oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, and other specialists collaborate closely to explore every option and develop a tailored treatment plan for each patient. We aim to provide the most advanced care possible to improve outcomes.

Endometrial Cancer 
Endometrial cancer starts in the cells that line the uterus, known as the endometrium. This is the organ where pregnancy happens in women. Unlike other uterine cancers, endometrial cancer originates in the inner uterine lining rather than the muscular walls. You may also hear this type of cancer referred to as uterine cancer. Symptoms of endometrial cancer include Abnormal vaginal bleeding after menopause is a common sign, and this can happen even years after a woman has gone through menopause. Bleeding between periods can also be a symptom where the bleeding is heavier or more frequent than usual. Pelvic pain or pressure that comes and goes or is constant can also indicate endometrial cancer.

The exact causes of endometrial cancer are not fully understood. However, certain factors are known to increase risk. The main driver is increased exposure to the hormone estrogen without adequate hormone progesterone levels to balance it out. Starting your period early, before age 12, or having a late menopause gives you more years of estrogen exposure from menstrual cycles. Never being pregnant also raises your risk since you have more periods. Older age, after 55, obesity, and using tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment also slightly increase the chances of getting endometrial cancer. Genetics play a role, too – having an inherited mutation in the Lynch syndrome genes can predispose you.

Other risk factors include diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, use of estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy, and radiation therapy to the pelvis. At Valley Surgical RGV, we make women’s health a top priority. Our gynecological cancer team designs customized treatment plans for cervical cancer patients. Specialists like oncologists, surgeons, and gynecologists work together to provide chemotherapy, radiation, brachytherapy, surgery, and other tailored treatments.

Supporting You Through Cancer Treatment
Being diagnosed with cancer can feel overwhelming. At Valley Surgical RGV, our oncology team is here to guide and support you. We take time to understand each patient’s needs and develop customized treatment plans combining proven therapies for your specific cancer. Our goal is to provide advanced, compassionate care in a seamless environment. We empower patients with resources throughout their cancer journey. If you or a loved one has cancer, contact us to schedule a consultation. We are committed to helping you understand your options and fight cancer effectively together.

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