The word “tumor” strikes fear into the heart of everyone who hears it. Malignant tumors, unlike their benign counterparts, are not usually localized to one area. They can spread to the rest of the body, sending cancer cells out into the lymph nodes, tissues, and sometimes even bones. There are many types of malignant tumors, some of which are much rarer than others. If not caught early, malignant cancers can lead to severe complications and even death.
Sarcomas are rare but often malignant. They originate in the soft tissues of the body, generally connecting tissues such as muscle, ligaments, tendons, fat, and cartilage. Only about 8,000 soft tissue tumors occur in the U.S. each year. Luckily, over 90 percent of people diagnosed with a soft tissue tumor do not see the tumor spread, and surgeons can generally remove it before it causes further problems. If it has spread, however, it is much more difficult to treat and may require more than just surgical treatment.
Lung cancer has the lowest survival rate of all malignant cancers and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America. Unlike most tumors, which form because of gene mutations or unknown causes, smoking causes most instances of lung cancer. Sometimes, malignant lung tumors may appear even in people exposed to second-hand smoke, who personally never smoked. This cancer affects the air sacks in the lungs and can spread alarmingly quickly. Early treatment is a necessity.
Adenocarcinomas are malignant tumors that develop in the epithelial tissue, a thin tissue that covers all of the exposed surfaces on our bodies, as well as inside the mouth. It also appears as a part of the digestive system and the lining of the hollow parts of organs. Adenocarcinomas are often to blame for a diagnosis of breast, colon, and lung cancer. They can also appear in the bile duct, vagina, stomach, and prostate.
Carcinoma is a more general category that includes the previous item on the list. Carcinomas form from cells in the epithelium. The more broad type of carcinoma can cause malignant tumors in the prostate, stomach, pancreas, lungs, liver, breasts, or colon. They are the most common type of tumor and often develop in older adults, although younger men and women can also develop them.
Germ Cell Tumor
Despite their name, germ cell tumors do not come from airborne germs, but rather sperm and egg cells: the cells necessary to create new life. They occur most often in the reproductive organs, including the testicles and ovaries, but may also appear in the abdomen, chest, and brain. Germ cell tumors are the leading cause of testicular cancer in the United States, and they often spread to other areas of the body.
Blastoma tumors form from embryonic tissue, in cells that are still developing, and thus doctors diagnose this type of cancer in children more often than adults. All types of blastoma can be difficult to treat. They can appear in the brain, the retina of the eye, the bones, or even inside the nervous system. As they frequently affect children, they are one of the most concerning varieties on this list and are extremely difficult to treat effectively with surgery.
Tumor of the Scalp
Tumors of the scalp are very rare and can be surprisingly deadly. In most cases, surgeons remove tumors with few to no complications and not much spread. Sometimes, however, the diagnosis comes too late — the tumors are often devoid of symptoms and hidden by hair. Often, the person may even notice a bump on the scalp but dismiss it. This can lead to a delayed diagnosis and, obviously, a poorer outcome.
Malignant thyroid tumors, such as mucoepidermoid carcinoma and squamous carcinoma, are rare. They represent only 1.8 percent of all cancer diagnoses, but this does not mean they should be dismissed. The most frequent cause is lymphoma, which often follows a history of goiters and the disease Hashimoto thyroiditis. This condition causes the immune system to attack the thyroid and can lead to an underactive thyroid gland followed by other problems such as tumors.
FatCamera / Getty Images
Cancer of the gallbladder is likely under-considered, but this organ can be home to some surprisingly deadly cancer cells. While most malignant gallbladder tumors are diagnosed as adenocarcinomas, some of the rarer forms include mucinous, papillary, and signet ring cell-type tumors. Further study of these types of malignant tumors is necessary, as researchers and doctors strive to discover better and more effective treatments.
Tumors of the Heart
Most malignant heart tumors are angiosarcomas, although other types include rhabdomyosarcomas, mesotheliomas, or fibrosarcomas. As mentioned earlier, sarcomas are cancers formed in the soft tissue of the body, normally in connective tissue and muscle. This type of tumor presents with symptoms that can be mistaken for other heart conditions, leading to delayed diagnosis. Echocardiography is the best way to diagnose a heart tumor, though other heart tests can identify the growths, as well.