What Is Cancer?

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What Is

MacMillan Cancer Support definition:

The organs and tissues of the body are made up of tiny building blocks called cells. Cancer is a disease of these cells.

Cancer is not a single disease with a single cause and a single type of treatment. There are more than 200 different types of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

Although cells in different parts of the body may look and work differently, most repair and reproduce themselves in the same way. Normally, cells divide in an orderly and controlled way. But if for some reason the process gets out of control, the cells carry on dividing and develop into a lump called a tumour. Tumours are either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Doctors can tell if a tumour is benign or malignant by removing a piece of tissue (biopsy) and examining a small sample of cells under a microscope.

Diagram of Cells forming Tumor

Diagram of Cells forming Tumor

In a benign tumour, the cells do not spread to other parts of the body and so are not cancerous. However, they may carry on growing at the original site, and may cause a problem by pressing on surrounding organs.

In a malignant tumour, the cancer cells have the ability to spread beyond the original area of the body. If the tumour is left untreated, it may spread into surrounding tissue. Sometimes cells break away from the original (primary) cancer. They may spread to other organs in the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. For a Kids’ Definition of cancer  see – http://kidshealth.org.

(Source: http://www.macmillan.org.uk)

Key Signs & Symptoms of Cancer

The latest information from the National Health Service highlights 4 key signs of cancer which are:

  1. Unexplained blood that doesn’t come from any obvious injury

  2. An unexplained lump

  3. Unexplained weight loss, which feels significant to you

  4. Any type of unexplained pain that doesn’t go away

See your doctor immediately if you notice any of these because if it is cancer finding it early makes it easier it to be treated and increase the chances of healing and recovery.

Other signs to look for are other changes in your body that are persistent, that is, the changes seem to be lasting for a long time and do not go away:

  • Persistent – symptoms that last 3 weeks or more, such as a cough, a mouth or tongue ulcer, a sore that doesn’t heal or bloating.

Another symptom is something that you cannot explain, you don’t understand why this is happening to your body:

  • Unexplained  – such as difficulty swallowing food, or needing to pee very often or very suddenly

Also if you notice something unusual happening to your body:

  • Unusual change for you – such as a change in the size, shape or colour of a mole, or a change to your nipple, or the skin or shape of your breast

For further information, see www.nhs.uk/know4sure.

Cancer – Men & Women


The most common causes of cancer for men in Trafford are prostate, lung and large bowel. (Trafford JSNA – 2012-2016).

Prostate cancer overview

Around 36,000 men in the UK find out they have prostate cancer each year. This cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland grow out of control. There are often no early prostate cancer symptoms, but some men have urinary symptoms and discomfort. Prostate cancer treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and/or radiotherapy. In some instances, doctors recommend “watchful waiting”.

Breast Cancer in men – around 300 men in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.

(Source: BootsWebMD – Cancer Health centre www.webmd.boots.com/cancer/default.htm)


Black Men of African Caribbean origin are 3 times more likely to get prostate cancer than white men?

The Facts

The prostate is a gland that lies underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra tube, through which urine and semen is passed. Only men have a prostate and it is about the size of a walnut. The prostate’s main function is to make semen, which is the fluid that carries sperm.

The Stats

Prostate Cancer has overtaken lung cancer as the single most common cancer in all men in the UK and accounts for 24% of all new cancer diagnoses. 1 in every 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives.

Though only 1 in 26 men (less than 4%) will in fact die. This means men are more likely to die with prostate cancer than because of it. 100 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every day. That’s one every 15 minutes.

Famous Men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer

(Source: http://www.100bmol.org.uk/latest-news/243-prostate-cancer-month.html)


The most common causes for women in Trafford are breast cancer, lung and large bowel (Trafford JSNA – 2012-2016).

Breast cancer overview

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the UK. About 46,000 cases are diagnosed every year. Often, there are no symptoms of breast cancer, but signs of breast cancer can include a breast lump or an abnormal mammogram. Breast cancer stages range from early, curable breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer, with a range of treatments available.

Ovarian cancer overview

Every year around 6,500 women in the UK are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer occurs when a cancerous tumour forms in a woman’s ovary. In most cases, there are no known causes. Symptoms are often vague, but common ovarian cancer symptoms include ongoing pain or cramps in the stomach or back, increased abdominal girth, and nausea and bloating. Depending on the cancer stage, ovarian cancer treatment includes surgery and chemotherapy and occasionally radiotherapy.

(Source: BootsWebMD – Cancer Health centre http://www.webmd.boots.com/cancer/default.htm) 


During Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2013, we want to raise awareness of cervical cancer and prevention of the disease among black, faith and minority ethnic communities.

Every year in the UK over 3000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. However, it is a largely preventable disease thanks to cervical screening and HPV vaccination. Recent research has shown that awareness of cervical cancer and uptake of cervical screening are considerably lower in BME women when compared to the wider population.

(Source: Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust – http://www.jostrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/bme-communities)

Men & Women

Lung cancer overview

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the UK. Lung cancer and smoking often, but not always, go hand in hand. There are usually no signs or early symptoms of lung cancer. As lung cancer stages advance, lung cancer symptoms may include coughing, weight loss, shortness of breath and bloody sputum. Treatment for lung cancer depends on the stage of the disease but can include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.

(Source: BootsWebMD – Cancer Health centre http://www.webmd.boots.com/cancer/default.htm)

Trafford Demographics for Cancer

Cancer is the leading cause of death for people under 75 years in Trafford and accounted for 38% of premature deaths in Trafford in 2008-10. The incidence of cancer in Trafford is rising, with around 1,200 new diagnoses each year and it appears to be rising faster than the national and regional rates. However, mortality from cancer in people aged under 75 is falling and is similar to that seen nationally. There are approximately 500 deaths per year due to cancer in Trafford.

Rates of premature deaths from all cancers show much higher rates in the most deprived part of the population compared to the least deprived. The rate of premature mortality from all cancers is highest in the wards of Gorse Hill, Longford and Bucklow-St-Martins.

(Source: Trafford Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) 2012-2016).

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