Of over 200 different types of cancers that have been identified, the cancer diagnosed with the greatest frequency in the United States (excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers) is breast cancer.
The next most common — ‘common’ being measured as 40,000 cases or more per year (2018) — are lung cancer and prostate cancer.
The list of the 13 most common cancers, with estimated new cases and deaths for each type, follows. They’re listed in order of highest estimated new cases to lowest.
1. Breast Cancer
Estimated new U.S. cases in 2018: 266,120
- A new lump or mass in your breast, armpit, or around your collarbone. Most lumps are painless, but some may be painful or tender. (Many lumps aren’t breast cancer, though. The only way to tell is have your doctor check it.)
- Swelling in your breast
- Irritation, dimpling (which may cause your skin to look like an orange peel), thickening, redness, or scaliness of the skin on your breast
- Pain in your breast or nipple
- Nipple discharge that isn’t breast milk
- Nipple retraction (a nipple that’s “dented” or turned inward)
These signs don’t always mean you have breast cancer. That’s why it’s important to see your doctor or a breast specialist if you notice any changes in your breasts.
2. Lung Cancer
Estimated new U.S. cases in 2018: 234,030
Signs of lung cancer include:
- A persistent cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
- Coughing up blood
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- Constant chest pain
- Bone pain
- Hoarseness or other voice changes
- Regular lung infections (like pneumonia or bronchitis)
- Losing weight without trying
- Not feeling hungry
- Frequent headaches
- Blood clots
Lung cancer doesn’t usually cause symptoms until it’s advanced (also referred to as late-stage cancer). That’s because your lungs have few nerve endings, so tumors can grow there without causing pain. If you have any of the signs above, see your doctor to get tested for lung cancer and other possible causes, such as asthma.
3. Melanoma (skin)
Melanoma is cancer that begins in specialized cells that make up the pigment that gives skin its color (melanin).
While more common on the skin, melanomas can also form on the eye and in other pigmented tissues.
estimated yearly new cases: 96,480
estimated yearly deaths: 7,230
5-year survival rate: 92 percent (2008–2014)
4. Kidney (renal cell and renal pelvis) cancer
The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma which commonly develops in one kidney as a single tumor.
Renal pelvis cancer forms in the kidney’s pelvis or the ureter, the tube that carries urine to the bladder from the kidney.
estimated yearly new cases: 73,820
estimated yearly deaths: 14,770
5-year survival rate: 75 percent (2008–2014)
5. Brain and spinal cord tumors
Brain and central nervous system tumors are the second most common cancers in children, making up about 26% of childhood cancers. There are many types of brain tumors, and the treatment and outlook for each is different.
Most brain tumors in children start in the lower parts of the brain, such as the cerebellum or brain stem. They can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred or double vision, dizziness, seizures, trouble walking or handling objects, and other symptoms. Adults are more likely to develop tumors in upper parts of the brain. Spinal cord tumors are less common than brain tumors in both children and adults.
6. Leukemia (all types)
Leukemias are cancers that begin in the blood-forming tissue of the bone marrow.
These cancers are characterized by large numbers of abnormal white blood cells building up in the blood and bone marrow to a point where they crowd out normal blood cells. This makes it harder for the body to distribute oxygen to its tissues, fight infections, and control bleeding.
estimated yearly new cases: 61,780
estimated yearly deaths: 22,840
5-year survival rate: 61.4 percent (2008–2014)
7. Liver Cancer
Estimated new U.S. cases in 2018: 42,220
- Losing weight without trying
- Not having an appetite or feeling very full after eating a small amount of food
- Nausea or vomiting
- An enlarged liver. This may feel like a mass under your ribs on your right side.
- An enlarged spleen. This may feel like a mass under your ribs on your left side.
- Pain in your gut or near your right shoulder blade
- A swollen abdomen
- Skin itching that doesn’t have another cause
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (known as jaundice)
- Abnormal bruising or bleeding
- Enlarged veins on your belly
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Weakness or confusion
8. Prostate cancer
Just over 192,200 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually. Dr. Lichtenfeld says that this is the most common cancer to affect men, most often men over age 50. The prostate gland is a part of the reproductive system in men and is found at the base of the bladder, near the rectum. This type of cancer develops in the tissues inside the prostate gland.
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