After heart disease, cancer is the leading cause of death in the United States. There are many different cancers that can affect nearly any part of the body. Some cancerous growths do not spread through the body or pose much of a risk, while others can result in death two weeks after being diagnosed.
For that reason, it is important for doctors to act quickly in making a diagnosis if they believe a patient may have cancer. Doctors who unnecessarily delay a diagnosis put their patients' lives at risk.
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Tumors can present in the body in either benign or malignant form. Benign tumors are those that are not cancerous and usually do not spread. Malignant tumors, however, are cancerous and usually spread (metastasize) through the body, draining the body's resources and gradually killing the patient.
Without running tests, it is difficult to tell right away whether a tumor is benign or malignant. Given enough time, however, some benign tumors can even turn malignant.
For example, there are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer.
Squamous cell carcinoma can be fatal but is not nearly as dangerous as a melanoma. Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, but is responsible for 75% of skin cancer-related deaths, as it metastasizes rapidly.
Skin cancer is easier to detect and diagnose than many other types of cancer, due to the tumors being visible on the skin surface. People who develop other kinds of cancer may not fare so well.
Diagnosing cancer in a patient's body can require removing a tissue sample and sending it to a laboratory for testing. If a doctor does not act quickly enough in seeking a diagnosis, the patient's cancer may spread while they wait