The Most Common Cancers and How to Spot Them

Most people know of someone in their family who has been diagnosed with cancer. The earlier doctors find cancer, the sooner treatment can start. So it’s helpful to know the most common types of cancer and their warning signs.

There are more than 100 types of cancer, and some are more common than others, depending on things like your age, gender, and racial or ethnic group. (For example, prostate cancer only affects men, and breast cancer is far more likely in women.)

Keep in mind that many cancers don’t have symptoms in their early stages. And if you do have symptoms, they could also show up with other conditions, so you’ll need tests to find out the cause.

1. Non-melanoma Skin Cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancer, which includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, is the most common form of cancer. It affects more than a million Americans each year. Exactly how many new cases there are each year isn’t clear because doctors can often treat it in their office and don’t have to report cases to cancer registries.

Signs of basal cell carcinoma include:

Basal cell carcinoma is most likely to grow on your head, face, neck, and torso.

Signs of squamous cell carcinoma include:

Squamous cell carcinoma usually forms on areas of your body that have been repeatedly exposed to sunlight, like your face.

2. Breast Cancer

Signs include:

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.

3. Lung Cancer

Signs of lung cancer include:

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.

4. Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer doesn’t usually cause early warning signs. Experts recommend that if you’re a man over age 55 and don’t have any symptoms, you should talk to your doctors about whether you should be tested for the disease. If you do have symptoms, see your doctor right away. These symptoms can also be due to other problems like prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate).

5. Colon and Rectal Cancers

Signs include:

Colorectal cancers don’t always cause symptoms until they’re advanced. But signs of colorectal cancers can also be signs of other problems, like hemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome. See your doctor if you have any of these problems.

6. Melanoma

Signs include:

Because melanoma causes visible changes on your skin, experts recommend examining your skin from head to toe once a month to spot any potential signs of skin cancer, and having your doctor check your skin once a year, too.

7. Bladder Cancer

Signs include:

See your doctor if you have any of these problems. Keep in mind that they could have other causes, such as a urinary tract infection, an overactive bladder, or an enlarged prostate.

8. Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Signs include:

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the more common forms of childhood cancer, but it affects adults, too. It can be in different areas of the body, which means the symptoms of the disease can vary. For example, lymphoma in your abdomen can cause pain and swelling in your gut, while skin lymphoma can lead to itchy lumps on the skin. Some of the signs of lymphoma are also common signs of infections that aren’t linked to cancer.

9. Kidney Cancer

Signs include:

10. Leukemia

Estimated new U.S. cases in 2020: 60,530

Signs include:

Leukemia is a cancer in the body’s blood-forming tissues. These tissues include bone marrow and the lymphatic system, including the lymph nodes. Because leukemia can affect different parts of the body, signs of the disease can vary from person to person.

11. Pancreatic Cancer

Signs include:

Pancreatic cancer doesn’t usually cause signs until the disease is advanced.

12. Thyroid Cancer

Signs include:

13. Liver Cancer

Signs include:

14. Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer is a type of uterine cancer that affects the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus. Experts predict that 65,620 new cases of uterine cancers, including endometrial cancer, will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2020.

Signs of endometrial cancer include:

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Signs include: