10 Very Rare Types of Cancer and Their Symptoms

“You have cancer” is perhaps the saddest news one can receive. This news could get worse if you’ve been diagnosed with a rare type of cancer. Cancer is considered rare if it is found in fewer than six people out of 100,000 in a year. It can also be considered rare if it is a type that requires special treatment.

Being diagnosed with rare types of cancer does not mean all hope is lost. It simply means you will require special treatment as opposed to that offered to a majority of cancer patients with more common cancer types. Below are 10 rare types of cancer:

1. Brain Tumour Cancer

Brain tumour cancers are so called because they start in the brain (primary tumours), or spread from the brain to other areas of the body (secondary tumours). Symptoms of brain tumours include vomiting and drowsiness, mental or behavioural changes, speech and vision impairment, severe, persistent headaches, seizures, nausea, and paralysis or weakness on a particular side of the body.

2. Head and Neck Cancer

These cancers usually start in the squamous cells. They mainly affect the nose, throat and mouth, the mucosal surfaces that are inside your head and neck. The cancers are categorized according to where they originate from, e.g. paranasal sinuses, pharynx, salivary glands and nasal cavity, the oral cavity, and the larynx.

3. Thyroid Cancer

Another rare type of cancer, thyroid cancer affects a small hormone-producing gland located at the base of your neck called the thyroid gland. Symptoms of thyroid cancer include swollen glands in the neck, swelling or a painless lump in the front of the neck, difficulty swallowing, unexplained hoarseness, and a lingering sore throat.

4. Lymphoma

This condition occurs when lymphocytes or white blood cells start to get out of control. Lymphoma takes root when these cells start dividing abnormally or fail to die when they should. This compromises the body’s immune system. It usually affects the lymph nodes in the groin or neck area, armpits, or any other part of the body. Symptoms of lymphoma depend on where it spreads from, and the affected part of the body.

5. Paediatric Cancer

Also called childhood cancer, pediatric cancers include lymphoma, brain cancer, and leukemia. Cancers in children are however not caused by the same things that cause cancer in adults such as exposure to environmental toxins and smoking. They are caused by random mutations of genes in a growing cell. This makes it very difficult to control or check them.

6. Neuroendocrine Cancer

This type of cancer emanates from hormone-producing cells in your body’s neuroendocrine system. The cancer-causing cells can be found in the body’s organs such as the gastrointestinal tract (e.g. intestines and the stomach), and the lungs.

7. Sarcoma

Sarcoma cancer can develop in the body’s connective tissues such as bones, nerves, fat, blood vessels, muscles, cartilage, and deep skin tissues. It manifests in either soft tissue or bone sarcoma. However, both have similar symptoms and share a number of microscopic characteristics.

8. Penile Cancer

There are a number of penile cancers, but the most prevalent grow from the cells covering the penis. Another rare type of penile cancer starts from the glands that produce sweat. Among common risk factors of penile cancer, smoking is considered a heavy-hitter. Sexually transmitted diseases have also been suspected to cause penile cancer.

Perhaps this is the reason incidences of penile cancer have been on the increase (a 20% increase in the last three decades). Treatment for penile cancer depends on each individual case and the extent of its spread. It, however, includes a full penectomy or a simple chemotherapy procedure.

9. Non-Cutaneous Melanomas

Melanoma can occur indiscriminately on any part of the body. It has no regard for race, gender, or age. The most common type of melanoma is that of the skin, which is also referred to as cutaneous melanoma. This is the most ravaging cancer of the skin.

There are, however, other non-cutaneous melanoma, cancers that affect other parts of the body such as the mucous membranes (mucosal melanoma), and the eyes (ocular melanoma). So far, these cancers have not been linked to exposure to UV. No correlation has so far been established between these cancers and family history, but there is no evidence to rule out this possibility entirely.

10. Thoracic Cancers

These include tracheal tumors, lung carcinoid tumors, thymic malignancies, lung and oracic cancers. The two main types of thoracic cancers are small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Among lung cancers types, the latter is the most common. SCLC is mainly common among smokers and has the propensity to spread quickly throughout the body.

Any type of cancer is serious enough to be a concern. While most of the cancer types are treatable if diagnosed at the preliminary stages, the rare types require a special treatment and approach. Cancer may be considered rare for the fact that only a handful of persons are diagnosed with it or if it requires special treatment.

Ronald Ryan

I'm a self-proclaimed science geek and all-around nerd. Useless fun trivia seems to be my forte. If you ever need to hear a good dad joke, I'm your guy!

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