Cancer Introduction Chapter 5

Types of Cancer


What Are the Types of Cancer?

There are hundreds of different types of cancer. They are diagnosed according to a number of factors, for instance, the location of the cancer and its appearance under a microscope. However, all cancers can be classified into four main categories: carcinoma, leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, and sarcoma. READ MORE

Why are the symptoms of depression so varied? Why does one person brush off an incident as a mere nuisance, and another respond to it by becoming clinically depressed? Scientists are studying depression, its causes, and different ways of alleviating and curing it. But we have a long way to go before we fully understand the disorder. LESS



About 80% of all cancer cases are carcinomas. Carcinomas are cancers of the epithelial cells, that is, the cells that line or cover the body’s organs, produce hormones, and make up glands. Carcinomas may develop in the reproductive organs, lungs, mucous membranes, and breasts, as well as the liver, prostate, pancreas, thyroid, and ovaries. Carcinomas tend to occur more often in older than in younger people. READ MORE

Most carcinomas are either glandular (adenocarcinoma) or squamous (squamous cell carcinoma).

  • Adenocarcinomas are cancers that develop in the lining or inner surface of an organ. Most stomach, pancreatic, prostate, and breast cancers are adenocarcinomas.

  • Squamous cell carcinomas are common skin cancers.




Leukemias are cancers of the blood or blood-forming organs. Leukemia causes the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the bone marrow, crowding out normal cells and not allowing enough space in the bone marrow for normal blood production. The lack of white blood cells increases the risk of infection, the lack of red blood cells causes anemia and fatigue, and the lack of platelets increases the risk of bleeding in the patient. READ MORE

Leukemias are categorized as either acute or chronic and as either myelogenous (from bone marrow) or lymphocytic (involving lymphocytes). Acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common form in children, once killed more than 90% of those who developed it within 6 months. However, thanks to new drug therapies, most acute lymphocytic patients now achieve complete remission. Chronic leukemias, which have a more gradual onset and a more protracted course, arise more frequently in adults. LESS


Lymphoma and Myeloma

Lymphoma and myeloma are cancers that originate in the cells of the immune system.

Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system. They comprise about 5% of all cancers in the US and just over half of all blood-related cancers. Lymphomas usually start in the lymph nodes or in lymphoid tissues of other organs, such as the lungs, spleen, and skin. There are dozens of types of lymphoma, but they are generally classified into two types: Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. READ MORE

  • Hodgkin’s disease results in enlargement of the lymph nodes and spleen and generally has a high cure rate.

  • Non-Hodgkin’s disease is classified according to the morphology of the cells and whether the tumors are diffuse or nodular. The nodular form of the disease is less aggressive than the diffuse type. Diffuse large-cell lymphomas tend to progress rapidly and may spread to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and even the brain.

Myelomas are cancers that occur in bone marrow. Myeloma can affect any bone that contains marrow, including the skull, ribs, pelvis, shoulder blades, and vertebrae. In myeloma, abnormal plasma cells populate the bone marrow throughout the body. These cells produce a protein that replaces the normal antibodies in the blood, reducing the body’s ability to ward off infection. Myeloma can damage the kidneys or cause complete kidney failure, and it causes the bones to weaken, leading to chronic fracturing. The disease usually occurs during middle age or later. It is progressive and considered incurable. LESS



Sarcomas are cancers of the mesodermal (connective tissue) cells, the cells that form muscle, cartilage, fibrous tissue, bone, and fat. Examples of sarcomas are osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and leiomyosarcoma (cancer of the smooth muscle that is found in the wall of digestive organs). Sarcomas occur more often in younger than in older people. They are rare, accounting for only 1% of all cases of cancer. READ MORE

Sarcomas are divided into bone and soft-tissue tumors. Bone tumors are much more common. Tumors may have the characteristics of muscle (myosarcoma), bone (osteosarcoma), cartilage (chondrosarcoma), or blood vessels (angiosarcoma). LESS

Photo attribution of bone marrow with acute myeloblastic leukemia with maturation associated with a t(8;21) chromosome abnormality
Copyright 2008 The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP)

Photo attribution of follicilar lymphoma in the spleen
Copyright 2008 The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP)

Photo attribution of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) image of a sarcoma
Copyright 2010 Dr. Stephen Boppart, Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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