Types of Cancer: Understanding the Different Forms

types of cancer

Millions of people worldwide are affected by cancer, a life-threatening disease. According to the American Cancer Society, there were an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases and over 600,000 cancer deaths in the United States in 2021 alone. In the United Kingdom, there were approximately 367,000 new cancer cases and over 165,000 cancer deaths in 2020.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the most common types of cancers, their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Understanding Cancer

Before we dive into the different types of cancers, it’s essential to understand what cancer is and how it affects the body. Cancer arises when cells within the body start growing and dividing in an uncontrolled manner. Normally, cells grow and divide in an orderly manner, but cancer cells don’t follow this pattern. Instead, they continue to divide and grow, forming abnormal growths or tumors.

Common Types of Cancer

There are over 100 types of cancers, but some are more common than others. Here are the most prevalent types of cancers:

Breast Cancer

Cells in the breast can develop into a cancerous tumor, which is known as breast cancer. It’s the most common cancer among women, but it can also affect men. Some common symptoms of breast cancer include a lump or thickening in the breast, changes in the size or shape of the breast, and nipple discharge.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer:

  • A lump or thickening in the breast or underarm
  • Changes in the size or shape of the breast
  • Nipple discharge or retraction
  • Skin changes or redness on the breast or nipple

Lung Cancer

The leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally is lung cancer, which initiates in the lungs. Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, but exposure to secondhand smoke and air pollution can also increase the risk of developing the disease. Common symptoms of lung cancer include coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

types of cancer, lung cancer

Symptoms of Lung Cancer:

  • Coughing that persists or gets worse over time
  • Chest pain that worsens with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness or wheezing
  • Coughing up blood

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the prostate gland, which is located below the bladder in men. It’s the second most common cancer among men, after skin cancer. Some common symptoms of prostate cancer include difficulty urinating, blood in the urine or semen, and pain in the hips, back, or chest.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer:

  • Difficulty urinating or weak urine flow
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain or discomfort in the pelvis, hips, back, or chest
  • Erectile dysfunction

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that specifically targets the colon or rectum.  It’s the third most common cancer in both men and women. Some common symptoms of colorectal cancer include changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, and abdominal pain.

types of cancer, colorectal cancer

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer:

  • Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Unexplained weight loss

Skin Cancer

When abnormal cells within the skin start growing uncontrollably, it leads to skin cancer. Skin cancer is a prevalent issue in the US and UK, with the disease being the most common cancer in both countries. As per American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), every day, approximately 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the US. On the other hand, the British Skin Foundation report, with over 100,000 new cases diagnosed annually, said that skin cancer makes this disease the most widespread form of cancer in the UK. It also results in the deaths of 2,500 individuals every year in UK, which equates to an average of seven people per day.

Also Read: What is Melanoma Skin Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

types of cancer, Skin cancer
Leica Picture

Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the three primary forms of skin cancer. Some common symptoms of skin cancer include changes in the appearance of moles or other skin lesions and new growths on the skin.

Symptoms of Skin Cancer:

  • Changes in the appearance of moles or other skin lesions
  • New growths on the skin
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Itching, tenderness, or pain in the affected area

Also Read: Skin Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention


Leukemia is a blood and bone marrow cancer that can be fatal. It’s the most common cancer in children, but it can also occur in adults. Leukemia occurs when abnormal blood cells are produced in the bone marrow and then enter the bloodstream. Common symptoms of leukemia include fatigue, easy bruising or bleeding, and frequent infections.

Symptoms of Leukemia:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Frequent infections
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Pale skin


Lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system, a crucial component of the immune system. Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are the two primary types. Lymphoma can occur at any age, but it’s more common in older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

types of cancer, Lymphoma

Symptoms of Lymphoma:

  • Swollen lymph nodes, often in the neck, armpit, or groin
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Itching

Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas, an organ located in the abdomen, can be affected by pancreatic cancer. It’s a highly aggressive cancer and often goes undetected until it has spread to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer:

  • The skin and eyes may turn yellow, a condition called jaundice, in cases of pancreatic cancer.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting

Ovarian Cancer

The female reproductive system is where the ovaries are located and they may be affected by ovarian cancer.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:

  • Bloating or abdominal swelling
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

Brain Cancer

Brain cancer is a type of cancer that affects the brain and central nervous system.

types of cancer, brain cancer

Symptoms of Brain Cancer:

  • Headaches that worsen over time
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding language
  • Arm or leg weakness and numbness are some of the symptoms of brain cancer, which affects the brain and central nervous system.

Causes of Cancer

Cancer can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic mutations, exposure to carcinogens, and lifestyle choices. Some common causes of cancer include:

  • Age
  • Smoking or exposure to second hand smoke
  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds
  • Exposure to certain chemicals or toxins
  • A family history of cancer
  • Poor diet and lack of exercise
  • Chronic inflammation or infections

Treatment Options

The treatment for cancer depends on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the individual’s overall health. Some common treatment options for cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.


Cancer is a complex disease with many different types, each with its own symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Early detection is key to successfully treating cancer, so it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms and seek medical attention if you have any concerns. With ongoing research and advances in treatment, there is hope for those who are diagnosed with cancer.

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