Cancer is not a single disease with a single type of treatment. There are more than 200 different types of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.Cancer starts in our cells. Cells are tiny building blocks that make up the organs and tissues of our body. Usually, these cells divide to make new cells in a controlled way. This is how our bodies grow, heal and repair.
Sometimes, this goes wrong and the cell becomes abnormal. The abnormal cell keeps dividing and making more and more abnormal cells. These cells form a lump, which is called a tumour.
Not all lumps are cancerous.
- A lump that is not cancerous (benign) cannot spread to anywhere else in the body
- A lump that is cancer (malignant) can grow into surrounding tissue
Cancer cells sometimes break away from the primary cancer and travel through the blood or lymphatic system to other parts of the body. Cancer cells that spread and develop into a tumour somewhere else in the body are called a secondary cancer
Cancer and Cell Types
It’s important for doctors to know what type of cancer a person has. The type of cancer is generally based on the part of your body and the type of cell where the cancer first developed.
The most common places for cancer to develop are the skin, lungs, breasts, prostate, colon and rectum.
There are three main types of cell where cancer develops:
- Epithelial cells. Cancers that develop in this type of cell are called carcinomas. About 80-90% of cancers are this type
- Cells of the blood and lymphatic system. Cancers that develop in this type of cell are called leukaemia’s and lymphomas. About 7% of cancers are this type
- Connective tissue cells. Cancers that develop in this type of cell are called sarcomas. About 1% of cancers are this type
Cancer can sometimes develop in other types of cell, but this is rare.
Knowing how your body normally looks and feels can help you be aware of any changes that could be caused by cancer. If you have any symptoms that are ongoing, unexplained or unusual for you it’s important to see your doctor.There are certain symptoms you should always have checked. Don’t be scared about getting symptoms checked by your doctor. The earlier cancer is found, the more likely it is to be cured. You won’t be wasting their time.
- Common symptoms of cancer include:
- Unexplained bleeding
- Unexplained weight loss
- A lump or swelling
- Unexplained pain
These symptoms can be caused by something other than cancer. However, it’s always best to have them checked by your GP, as soon as possible. You are not wasting your doctor’s time by getting your symptoms checked.
If you’ve already been to your doctor with symptoms but they haven’t gone away, it is important to see your doctor again.