Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of thebody 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 one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. In the UK, the four most common types of cancer are:

  • breast cancer
  • lung cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • bowel cancer

There aremore than200 different types of cancer, andeach is diagnosed and treated in a particular way. You can findlinks on this page toinformation about Predictive genetic test for cancer risk genes .

Spotting signs of cancer

Changes to your body's normal processes or unusual, unexplained symptoms can sometimes be an earlysign of cancer.

Symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor include:

  • a lump that suddenlyappears on your body
  • unexplained bleeding
  • changes to your bowel habits

But in many casesyour symptomswon't be related to cancer and will be caused by other, non-cancerous health conditions.

For example:

  • healthy eating
  • taking regular exercise
  • not smoking

Readmore about how a healthy lifestyle can helpreduce your chances of developing cancer .

Cancer treatment

Surgery is the first treatment to try for most types of cancer, as solid tumours can usually be surgically removed.

Two othercommonly used treatment methods are:

  • chemotherapy powerful cancer-killing medication
  • radiotherapy the controlled use of high-energy X-rays

Waiting times

Accurately diagnosing cancer can take weeks ormonths. As cancer often develops slowly over several years, waiting fora few weeks won't usually impact onthe effectiveness of treatment.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced referral guidelines for suspected cancer .

Youshouldn't have to wait more than two 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 towait more than 31 days from thedecision to treat to the start of treatment.

Cancer services

Find local cancer support services

Find specialist cancer hospitals

Find cancer support services for women

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 15 Sep 2016