Types Of Cancer

General Information

The Sand Lake Cancer Center wants you to know as much as possible about your condition. This resource brings you a wealth of knowledge on specific types of cancer.  Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.

The three ways that cancer spreads in the body are:






• Through tissue. Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.

•Through the lymph system. Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.

•Through the blood. Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and  travels through the blood to other places in the body.

Cancer is not one disease, but many diseases that occur in different areas of the body.  There are more than 100 different types of cancer. Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start - for example, cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer; cancer that begins in basal cells of the skin is called basal cell carcinoma.

Each type of cancer is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells. Under normal conditions, cell growth is carefully controlled by the body; however, these controls can malfunction, resulting in abnormal cell growth and the development of a lump, mass or tumor. Some cancers involving the blood and blood-forming organs do not form tumors but circulate through other tissues, where they grow.

A tumor may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Cells from cancerous tumors can spread throughout the body. This process, called metastasis, occurs when cancer cells break away from the original tumor and travel through the blood to another area of the body. Common locations of metastasis are the bones, lungs, liver and central nervous system.

The type of cancer refers to the organ or area of the body where the cancer first occurred. Cancer that has metastasized to other areas of the body is named for the part of the body where it originated.  For example, if breast cancer has spread to the bones, it is called “metastatic breast cancer,” not bone cancer.

To learn more about specific types of cancer, access the resources to the right.


Polycythemia Vera

Polycythemia vera is a disease in which too many red blood cells are made in the bone marrow.


In polycythemia vera, the blood becomes thickened with too many red blood cells. The number of white blood cells and platelets may also increase. These extra blood cells may collect in the spleen and cause it to swell. The increased number of red blood cells or platelets in the blood can cause bleeding problems and make clots form in blood vessels. This can increase the risk of stroke or heart attack. In patients who are older than 65 years or who have a history of blood clots, the risk of stroke or heart attack is higher. Patients also have an increased risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia or primary myelofibrosis.


Polycythemia Vera Symptoms and Diagnosis

Possible signs of polycythemia vera include headaches and a feeling of fullness below the ribs on the left side.


Polycythemia vera often does not cause early symptoms. It is sometimes found during a routine blood test. Symptoms may occur as the number of blood cells increases. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:


     A feeling of pressure or fullness below the ribs on the left side


     Double vision or seeing dark or blind spots that come and go

     Itching all over the body, especially after being in warm or hot water

     Reddened face that looks like a blush or sunburn



     Weight loss for no known reason


Special blood tests are used to diagnose polycythemia vera.  In addition to a complete blood count, bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, and cytogenetic analysis, a serum erythropoietin test is used to diagnose polycythemia vera.  In this test, a sample of blood is checked for the level of erythropoietin (a hormone that stimulates new red blood cells to be made).


Polycythemia Vera Treatment

The purpose of treatment for polycythemia vera is to reduce the number of extra blood cells. Treatment of polycythemia vera may include the following:

         Phlebotomy (removing a therapeutic level of blood)

         Chemotherapy with or without phlebotomy

         Biologic therapy using interferon alfa

         Low- dose aspirin

         A clinical trial of a new treatment.












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