About cancer

Introduction


There are many different types of cancer (even in the same part of the body). Some  cancers are very common, others are rare. As well as having some similar features, each cancer has its own characteristics and symptoms which vary according to the type of cancer and where it is in the body. Cancer is not contagious (it cannot be caught from someone else) and different types of cancer are treated in different ways.

Many people can be cured of cancer and those who can’t are living longer and have a better quality of life than previously. New treatments are being developed all the time. 

The chances of survival depend a lot on what type of cancer it is, how early the cancer has been detected, and if it has developed or spread in the body. These are important pieces of information your doctor should discuss with you. Being told you have cancer does not mean you are necessarily going to die as a result of it - you can talk to your doctor about the details of your own cancer and how it might develop.

Cancer is not contagious. It can't be caught from someone else and is not usually hereditary (passed on through families).

The disease

The human body is made up of millions of microscopic cells which constantly divide and grow to replace dead cells, make up tissue and maintain the body. Usually when cells in the body wear out they are replaced by identical new cells.

When things go wrong, some of the new cells are different. They begin to multiply in an uncontrolled way and can often form a lump or swelling (a tumour). Tumours can be benign or malignant. Benign tumours are usually harmless and sometimes do not need treatment whereas malignant tumours are cancerous and usually need some form of treatment.