Cancer is not just one disease. Rather, it’s a group of diseases, all of which cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Cancers are classified by the kind of fluid or tissue from which they come from. Or they can be classified due to the location in the body where they first started.
The Hawaii Pacific Health Cancer Centers are unique in that they treat the full spectrum of cancers that afflict all ages -- from the earliest onset cancers in children to cancers that develop later in adulthood.
Pediatric cancer is a term for cancers that occur in children ages 0-14 years. The major types of pediatric, or childhood cancers include acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), brain and other central nervous system (CNS) tumors, and neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that forms from immature nerve cells.
Because children’s cancers can differ greatly from those found in adults, children who have cancer most often will be treated at a children’s hospital. Here, doctors and other health care professionals who have undergone special training can provide the care and expertise required for treating pediatric cancers.
Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer-related death among women in the United States. Though some women are at a higher risk than others for developing breast cancer, the majority of women who get breast cancer don’t fall into specific high-risk categories or have a family history of breast cancer.
Breast cancer screening, with mammography, has been proven to save lives. It is important to have an annual screening beginning at age 40, or sooner if the woman is at an elevated risk.
Pictured: Marol, Breast Cancer Survivor
In its early stages, lung cancer usually has no symptoms. Only after the tumor begins to grow will a person begin to exhibit signs that something is wrong, such as a nagging cough that continues to get worse or constant chest pain. Other symptoms can include shortness of breath, wheezing, recurring lung infections (e.g., pneumonia or bronchitis), bloody or rust-colored sputum, hoarseness, or fever for unknown reason.
While smoking is by far the leading cause of lung cancer, other risk factors may increase a person’s chances of developing the disease, including second-hand smoke, radon or asbestos exposure, air pollution, and personal or family history of lung cancer.
Only a doctor can tell whether a patient's symptoms are caused by cancer or by another problem. Consult your primary care physician for a diagnosis.
Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer refers to a group of cancers that affect the digestive system. This includes cancers of the esophagus, liver, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum. Most GI cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage because there are no early signs or symptoms of a problem, or there are no screening options available.
Colorectal cancer, which include cancers of the colon and rectum, is the fourth most common form of cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Most people with early colon cancer don't have symptoms. Instead, these "silent" tumors grow slowly and often won’t produce symptoms until they reach a large size.
Fortunately, colorectal cancer is preventable, and curable, with proper screening. Discuss with your primary care physician your risk factors for colorectal or other GI cancers and prevention options.
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly and remains in the prostate, where it may not cause any serious damage. Prostate cancer that is more advanced, however, may cause urinating difficulty, incontinence, blood in the semen, pain or discomfort in the pelvic area, bone pain, or erectile dysfunction.
Bladder cancer is most often found early, when it is most treatable. Symptoms may include blood in the urine, painful urination, increased frequency in urination, pelvic or flank pain, discharge from the urethra, or enlarged lymph nodes in the groin area.
Kidney cancer, also referred to as renal cancer, begins in the kidneys and often doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include blood in the urine, low-back pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, swelling of ankles and legs, high blood pressure, anemia, recurrent fever or rapid, unexplained weight loss.
Testicular cancer is more common in younger men, but can occur at any age. Testicular cancer is highly treatable and curable, which is why men are encouraged to perform monthly testicular self-exams.
Gynecologic cancers include cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine/endometrial cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer.
Symptoms of gynecologic cancers are subtle and may include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or a change in urinary urgency or frequency.
Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their primary care physician or gynecologist. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to early detection, when cancer is in its early stages and most curable.
Pictured: Gwen, Gynecologic Cancer Survivor
Hematology refers to the care and treatment of blood cancers, which can affect the cells that make up the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system. While rare, blood cancers can occur in both children and adults and include leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells (usually white blood cells) and develops in the bone marrow. It is the most common form of pediatric cancer.
Myeloma also is a cancer that begins in the white blood cells, but this form of cancer affects what are known as plasma cells, which make proteins that help the body fight off disease.
Lymphoma affects the cells of the body's disease-fighting network, known as the lymphatic system. This includes the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. The main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Skin cancers are the most common type of cancer in the world, accounting for approximately 75 percent of all cancer diagnoses.
The main cause of skin cancer is overexposure to sunlight, which contains ultraviolet (UV) rays that can alter the genetic material in skin cells. Sunlamps and tanning booths also generate UV rays that can damage skin and cause skin cancers.
Skin cancer is about three times more common in men than in women. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 45 and 54; however, the incidence of skin cancer is rising, especially among young people.