October 19th is International Breast Cancer Day. This is one of the types of cancer that generates more deaths around the world, according to data from the World Health Organization.
What are the five most deadly cancers in the world?
1. Lung cancer
According to the WHO, 1.76 million people died in 2018 from lung cancer. Its most common cause is the consumption of cigarettes, generating about 90% of deaths from this affectation.
Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States, that is, almost one out of every five deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC.
This type of cancer has few symptoms in the early stage. However, later on, the disease manifests itself with:
- frequent coughing
- chest pain
- difficulty in breathing
- repeated episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis
- coughing up excess mucus and blood or rust colored mucus
One way to prevent this cancer is to avoid smoking or passive smoking.
2. Colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer affects the lower intestinal portions of the digestive system, the colon and the rectum, and in 2018, it claimed the lives of 862,000 people, according to the WHO.
Tumors can develop anywhere in the colon or rectum. If colorectal cancer cells spread outside the colon or rectum, they often travel to nearby lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands). This cancer can also spread to other parts of the body, especially the liver, and sometimes to the lungs, bones and other organs.
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- Blood in the stool
- Frequent gas pains or cramps
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Nausea or vomiting.
The risk of developing colorectal cancer is strongly related to family history. Compared to the general population, people who have a family history of colorectal cancer face about twice the risk of developing the disease.
The American Cancer Society updated its colorectal cancer screening guidelines in 2018 to recommend that adults at average risk be screened starting at age 45 instead of 50, as previously advised. Screening options can range from having a highly sensitive stool test annually to having a colonoscopy every 10 years.
Colorectal cancer is highly treatable if detected early. Tests can detect pre-cancerous growths and remove them. Treatment for this type of cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
3. Stomach cancer
Gastric cancer occurs when cancer cells form in the lining of the stomach. In 2018, 783,000 people worldwide died from this type of cancer.
"Risk factors include smoking, infection with H. pylori bacteria, and certain inherited conditions," says the National Cancer Institute.
There are several types of stomach cancer that tend to develop over a period of several years, says the American Cancer Society (ASC). It points out that before a true cancer forms, there are often "pre-cancerous" changes in the stomach's mucosa.
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss (without trying)
- Abdominal pain (belly)
- Vague discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel
- A feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating a small meal
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Vomiting, with or without blood
- Swelling or accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
- Blood in the stool
- Low red blood cell count (anemia)
4. Liver cancer
This type of cancer caused 782,000 deaths worldwide in 2018, according to the WHO. The liver is also susceptible to cancer in other organs metastasizing or spreading, especially colorectal cancer.
According to the American Cancer Association, the "best option" for curing liver cancer is to remove the cancerous tumor with surgery or a liver transplant, and smaller liver cancers can also be treated with other types of treatment such as ablation or radiation.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling full after a small meal
- Lack of appetite
- Persistent abdominal pain
- Swelling of the stomach area
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Mass that can be felt in the liver
Treatments for liver cancer include surgery, ablation, embolization therapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy, among others.
5. Breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common type for women in 154 of the 185 countries in a 2018 study by the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer. It accounts for 15% of all female cancers, according to WHO.
In 2018, there were 627,000 deaths from this type of cancer, according to the organization. Approximately one in four new cancer cases diagnosed in women worldwide occurs in the breast. If detected early, breast cancer can be a manageable disease. But it is still the leading cause of cancer death in women, followed by lung, colorectal and cervical cancer.
Breast cancer survival rates range from 80 percent in North America to less than 40 percent in low-income countries. This is mainly due to the lack of screening programs.
According to a study by the American Cancer Society, the absolute risk of a man developing cancer is 1 in 833, while for women it is 1 in 8. However, although this disease is rare in men, statistics show that it is increasing.
- A new lump in the breast or armpit (under the arm)
- Increased thickness or swelling of a part of the breast
- Irritation or sagging of the breast skin
- Redness or scaling in the nipple or breast area
- Nipple sagging or pain in that area
- Nipple discharge other than milk, including blood
- Any change in the size or shape of the breast
- Pain in any part of the breast.