Cancer is a disease of the cells in the body. There are many different types of cell in the body, and many different types of cancer which arise from different types of cell.

Authored by , Reviewed by Dr Hannah Gronow | Last edited | Certified by The Information Standard

What all types of cancer have in common is that the cancer cells are abnormal and multiply out of control. However, there are often great differences between different types of cancer.

Some grow and spread more quickly than others and some are easier to treat than others, particularly if diagnosed at an early stage.

Some respond much better than others to chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or other treatments, while some have a better outlook (prognosis) than others. For some types of cancer there is a very good chance of being cured. For some types of cancer, the outlook is poor.

So, cancer is not just one condition. In each case it is important to know exactly what type of cancer has developed, how large it has become, whether it has spread and how well the particular type of cancer responds to various treatments. This will enable you to get reliable information on treatment options and outlook.

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Further reading and references

  • Kirkegaard H, Johnsen NF, Christensen J, et al; Association of adherence to lifestyle recommendations and risk of colorectal cancer: a prospective Danish cohort study. BMJ. 2010 Oct 26341:c5504. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c5504.

  • What is Cancer?; National Cancer Institute

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