Cancer affects 1 in 3 of us in our lifetime with a new diagnosis every 2 minutes in the UK. Cancer can strike at any age, but it is more likely to occur in older people. However some cancers, including but not limited to leukaemia (cancer of white blood cells) and osteosarcoma (a bone cancer) are more likely to affect younger people.
Sometimes people think of the word 'cancer' as a single disease with a single cause, like measles or chickenpox, which is not strictly true there are over 200 types of cancer, each with different causes, treatments and symptoms. Cancer is the name given to any illness resulting from one of our body's own cells growing out of control which can lead to the growth of a lump called a tumour or to too many cells being produced.
These tumours can be either benign or malignant:
- Benign (non-cancerous) - these are tumours that are unable to spread elsewhere in the body, may grow more slowly and are often surrounded by an outer layer. They only become a problem if they grow too big and press on surrounding organs or change how the organ works.
- Malignant (cancerous)- these tumours are able to spread to other parts of the body, they are usually not surrounded by an outer layer and invade into other tissue and they may grow faster.