What is cancer?

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.

1 in 2 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime.

Types of cancer

There are more than 200 different types of cancer, and each is diagnosed and treated in a particular way. In the UK, the most common types of cancer are:

Spotting signs of cancer

Early diagnosis is vital in beating cancer. Different types of cancer have different symptoms. There are certain signs and symptoms that you should be aware of:

  • A lump that suddenly appears on your body
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Changes to your bowel habits

Cancer Screening

Cancer screening is a test that looks for early signs of cancer in people without symptoms. It can help spot cancers at an early stage, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

If you are registered with a GP, you will be automatically invited for the relevant screenings when you are eligible. These are done based on your recorded sex at your surgery.  For transgender and non-binary people, any hormones or surgeries you’ve had will impact which screenings are for you. Please see here for more information.

Cancer screening is for people with no symptoms at all. If you have symptoms, don’t wait for a screening invitation – tell your doctor as soon as possible.

Reducing your risk of cancer

Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing cancer:

Cancer Treatment

Waiting times

Accurately diagnosing cancer can take weeks or months. As cancer often develops slowly over several years, waiting for a few weeks will not usually impact on the effectiveness of treatment.

Support, resources and further information

There are lots of charities devoted to specific types of cancer, but Macmillan has some great general resources and sources of support for people diagnosed or looking after somebody with cancer. Their resources come in all sorts of easy to read and understand formats such as booklets, blogs, podcasts, audiobooks and more.