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


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 140 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

anain00 said on 12 January 2013

Hello, that's an useful article. Thanks ! Here's an article about the hypopharyngeal cancer

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

greendrive said on 04 October 2011

my mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer back in June and was told that a course of radio therapy and an operation to remove the timour would be the course of action. Still waiting for this to start - the 31 day waiting limit is a load of old rubbish. The NHS seems to work for the benefit of itself and not the patients.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

RohitNHSAutoR19 said on 30 August 2011

Health AZ Disease

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Arto said on 21 October 2010

We are all told that cancer needs to be diagnosed quickly for a positive outcome. I have been waiting 7 weeks to see a hospital doctor since first visiting my GP. She has telephoned the hospital twice as my condition has worsened and cancer is suspected. It is now three days since her last call and I am still waiting. I just hope those three days don't turn into three weeks.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

derekclaude said on 08 March 2010

Basically cancer results when genes are missing, inactive, active when they should not be, or damaged due to outside or other influences. The only real cure lies in gene therapy (repairing, removal or replacement of genes or as some people would say, "playing God"), so until researchers are allowed by governments to carry out their work unhindered, a cure for cancer will remain a long way off.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Ask the doctor

Tips on how to make the most of your doctor's appointment, including a checklist of the most basic questions to ask

The NHS Choices health apps library

Get apps to help with cancer

Worried about cancer or living with it? Get NHS-reviewed apps to help you cope

Cancer and fertility

Find out ways to help preserve your fertility before you start your cancer treatment

'I had prostate cancer'

Prostate cancer survivor Philip Kissi didn't notice any symptoms. He talks about his diagnosis and treatment

Cancer and social care

If you have cancer, your first priority is medical care. But there are people who can help with other aspects of your life

Living with cancer

Information on living with cancer, including treatment, support and different personal experiences of cancer