Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs.
Cancer sometimes begins in one part of the body before spreading to other areas. This process is known as metastasis.
More than 1 in 3 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. In the UK, the 4 most common types of cancer are:
There are more than 200 different types of cancer, and each is diagnosed and treated in a particular way. You can find links on this page to information about other types of cancer.
Spotting signs of cancer
Changes to your body's normal processes or unusual, unexplained symptoms can sometimes be an early sign of cancer.
Symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor include:
- a lump that suddenly appears on your body
- unexplained bleeding
- changes to your bowel habits
But in many cases your symptoms won't be related to cancer and will be caused by other, non-cancerous health conditions.
Read more about the signs and symptoms of cancer.
View the cancer directory of local services and organisations
Reducing your risk of cancer
Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer.
The Macmillan Cancer Support website has more information about how a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your chances of developing cancer.
Surgery is the first treatment to try for most types of cancer, as solid tumours can usually be surgically removed.
Two other commonly used treatment methods are:
- chemotherapy - powerful cancer-killing medication
- radiotherapy - the controlled use of high-energy X-rays
Accurately diagnosing cancer can take weeks or months. As cancer often develops slowly over several years, waiting for a few weeks won't usually impact on the effectiveness of treatment.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced referral guidelines for suspected cancer.
You shouldn't have to wait more than 2 weeks to see a specialist if your GP suspects you have cancer and urgently refers you.
In cases where cancer has been confirmed, you shouldn't have to wait more than 31 days from the decision to treat to the start of treatment.
Find out mores
The Health A-Z covers many different types of cancer. See the links below for information about specific types of cancer:
- Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
- Acute myeloid leukaemia
- Anal cancer
- Bile duct cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Bone cancer
- Bowel cancer
- Brain tumour (high-grade)
- Brain tumour (low-grade/mixed)
- Breast cancer (female)
- Breast cancer (male)
- Carcinoid tumours
- Cervical cancer
- Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia
- Chronic myeloid leukaemia
- Endometrial cancer
- Ewing sarcoma
- Eye cancer
- Gallbladder cancer
- Hairy cell leukaemia
- Head and neck cancer
- Hodgkin lymphoma
- Kaposi's sarcoma
- Kidney cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Mouth cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Nasopharyngeal cancer
- Neuroendocrine tumours
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Nose and sinus cancer
- Oesophageal cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Penile cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Skin cancer (malignant melanoma)
- Skin cancer (non-melanoma)
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- Stomach cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Vulval cancer