There are more than 200 different types of cancer, developing from different types of cells and in different parts of the body. Experts classify a cancer as rare when fewer than six out of 100,000 people are diagnosed with it each year. Here are three rare cancers and their warning signs.
Mesothelioma may develop following exposure to asbestos, a mineral found in the natural environment and once prized for its strength and heat resistant properties. Asbestos products were used extensively throughout the United States and in a wide variety of applications during the 20th century. In most cases, mesothelioma symptoms do not appear until decades after the initial exposure has occurred.
There are three main types of mesothelioma:
- Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease, accounting for 70% of cases. This occurs in the lining of the lung, known as the pleura.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma develops within the lining of the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum.
- Pericardial mesothelioma originates in the pericardium, which lines the heart.
Symptoms of mesothelioma are often confused with those of other respiratory diseases. If you have a history of being exposed to asbestos, especially from working in an occupation that has high exposure rates, it is important to know the potential signs of mesothelioma. Additionally, if you are a spouse or family member of someone who worked in one of these occupations, you could be at risk due to secondhand exposure to asbestos.
While a few symptoms are common to all types of the disease, others are strongly tied to the location of the tumors.
Thyroid cancer often appears without any symptoms, but the most common is a lump in the neck. Less commonly, patients may suffer from hoarseness or a change in their voice. Pain is very uncommon with thyroid cancer.
There are three types of Thyroid Cancers:
- Differentiated, including papillary, follicular and Hurthle, can be classified as the most common type and accounts for 95% of thyroid cancer diagnoses.
- Medullary thyroid cancer is rare, making up about 4% of all thyroid cancer cases. An unusual lump is typically found by the neck or throat.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the rarest, accounting for only 1% of cases. Anaplastic thyroid cancer may arise twenty years after radiation exposure.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
- A lump in the neck, sometimes growing quickly.
- Swelling in the neck.
- Pain in the front of the neck that travels up to the ears.
- Hoarseness or other changes in voice than linger.
- Trouble swallowing and/or breathing.
- A constant cough with no other cold-related symptoms.
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, talk with your doctor. Many symptoms associated with thyroid cancer can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions and other implications of the neck area. For example, lumps in the thyroid are common and not always cancerous.
Cancerous tumors that develop within the body’s connective tissues including, fat, blood vessels, nerves, bones, muscles, deep skin tissues, and cartilage are called sarcomas. 60% of sarcomas begin in an arm or leg, 30% start in the torso or abdomen, and 10% occur in the head or neck.
In general, sarcoma is divided into two categories:
- Bone sarcomas are very rare. There are three types of bone sarcomas; osteosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, and chondrosarcoma.
- Soft tissue sarcomas can occur in the muscles, fat, blood vessels, tendons, fibrous tissues, and synovial tissues.
Symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma tend to be harder to spot because they can grow anywhere in your body. In many cases, the first sign is a painless lump. That lump can then grow, making those affected physically uncomfortable by pressing against nerves or muscles. There are no known tests that can locate these tumors before they cause pain-inducing symptoms.
On the other hand, osteosarcoma may show obvious and early symptoms. These include pain in the affected bone, which often worsens at night. Swelling follows shortly after the onset of the pain. If the sarcoma is in the leg, you may also develop a noticeable limp.
Rare Cancer Overview
Low-frequency cancers like these are challenging because of:
- Late or incorrect diagnoses
- Lack of access to appropriate therapies and clinical expertise
- Loe amount of patients support groups
- Lack of interest in the development of new therapies due to market limitations
About 22% of cancer cases are considered rare. Many people feel isolated if they have a rare type of cancer. These often take longer to diagnose and have several misdiagnoses. In many cases, rare cancer patients will not know anyone else with this type of cancer. Treatments could involve traveling beyond your local hospital for care by a specialized team. Reference the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) for more information about rare cancers and diseases including warning signs, symptoms, and treatments. For additional insights, continue exploring Suddenly Senior’s articles about cancer.
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