Cancer information and useful links 

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.

There are over 200 different types of cancer, each with its own methods of diagnosis and treatment. You can find out more about specific types of cancer by using the links on this page.

Spotting signs of cancer

Changes to your body's normal processes or symptoms that are out of the ordinary can sometimes be an early sign of cancer.

For example, a lump that suddenly appears on your body, unexplained bleeding or changes to your bowel habits are all symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor.

In many cases, your symptoms won't be related to cancer and will be caused by other, non-cancerous health conditions. However, it's still important for you to see your GP so that they can investigate your symptoms.

Read more about the signs and symptoms of cancer.

Reducing your risk of cancer

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

For example, healthy eating, taking regular exercise and not smoking will help lower your risk.

Read more about how a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your chances of developing cancer.

How common is cancer?

Cancer is a very common condition. In 2011, almost 331,500 people in the UK were diagnosed with cancer.

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:

In 2011, these types of cancer accounted for over half (53%) of all new cases.

Cancer treatment

Surgery is the primary treatment option for most types of cancer, because solid tumours can usually be surgically removed.

Two other commonly used treatment methods are chemotherapy (powerful cancer-killing medication) and radiotherapy (the controlled use of high-energy X-rays).

Waiting times

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 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 to wait more than 31 days from the decision to treat to the start of treatment.

In 2012-13, 95.5% of people who were urgently referred for suspected cancer were seen by a specialist within 14 days of referral.

In the same period, 98.4% of people receiving their first treatment for cancer began their treatment within 31 days. For breast cancer, over 99% of people began their treatment within 31 days of being diagnosed.

Cancer services

Find local cancer support services

Find specialist cancer hospitals

Find cancer support services for women




Page last reviewed: 03/09/2014

Next review due: 03/09/2016