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Written on:2019-09-17
Go to Health A-Z:Click A-Z


  • Cancer
  • Signs and symptoms

  • 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.

    1 in 2 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.

    Coronavirus advice

    Your care team will talk to you about the benefits and risks of starting or continuing cancer treatment at the moment.

    Get advice about coronavirus and 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 will not be related to cancer and will be caused by other, non-cancerous health conditions.

    Read more about the signs and symptoms of cancer.

    Coronavirus update

    It's important to get help from a GP if you have symptoms that you're worried about.

    Find out about using the NHS during coronavirus

    Reducing your risk of cancer

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

    For example:

    The Macmillan Cancer Support website has more information about how a healthy lifestyle can help reduce 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.

    2 other commonly used treatment methods are:

    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.

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

    You should not 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 should not have to wait more than 31 days from the decision to treat to the start of treatment.

    NHS England has more detailed statistics on cancer waiting times.

    Cancer services

    Find local cancer support services

    Find specialist cancer hospitals

    Find cancer support services for women

    Other cancer pages

    The Health A-Z covers many different 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

    Social care and support guide

    If you:

    • need help with day-to-day living because of illness or disability

    • care for someone regularly because they're ill, elderly or disabled – including family members

    Our guide to care and support explains your options and where you can get support.



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