t.cancer1.jpg (20295 bytes)
What is cancer?
Cancer can be a scary word, but it doesn't have to be.
It's a disease that's been around for millions of years.
Cancer has even been found in dinosaur bones!
The ancient Egyptians had it and the Greeks even
came up with its name - it means "crab".

It is a common disease and it is likely sometime in
your life you will know someone who is affected by it.

There are over 200 different kinds.
Cancer happens when a small bit of how

a cell works or behaves goes wrong.

The human body is made up of hundreds of
different sorts of cells which all have different
jobs to do to make the body work.

When cells go wrong, they grow the wrong way and
they can start destroying healthy body tissue.

t.cancer2.jpg (10564 bytes)

What causes cancer?
Scientists know a lot more about cancers now because
so much research is going on to find out about it.

But there's still lots to discover.

Because there are so many different types of cancers
that can happen anywhere in the body, there are
different causes.

What experts do know is cancer is caused
by damaged genes in your DNA.

Genes are the set of coded instructions which
decide what happens to a cell in its life.
The instructions are kept in a cell's nucleus.

But if genes get damaged, this can
trigger wrong cell behaviour.

Cells start to behave out of control
- like a naughty kid at school -
and they ignore the rules on how to behave.

Experts reckon there are three main causes of gene damage:



-Harmful sun rays-

Two thirds of cancers are caused by these two factors.

t.cancer3.jpg (13995 bytes)

A malignant skin cancer

What is 'malignant' and 'benign'?
Cancer cells multiply much more quickly
than healthy cells. When this happens,
they can stick together to form lumps.

These are known as tumours.
Cells from tumours can spread to other parts
of the body and cause other tumours to grow.

When people find out they have a tumour,
they have to go to the doctor to find out if
  it is what's known as benign or malignant.

Benign tumours:

-These are not cancers
-Can often be removed and mostly don't come back

-Cells from these tumours don't spread
to other parts of the body.

Malignant tumours:

-These are cancers

-Cells in these tumours have gone
wrong and start to multiply

-Can damage other tissue or organs in your body

-Cells from these tumours can seep into
your blood and so spread the cancer

-These tumours should be removed.

t.cancer4.jpg (14216 bytes)

Famous people have to battle cancer too

Who can get it?
Cancer can affect anyone, but it mainly affects older people.

But different types are more likely to affect people at
different ages - some are quite common, others are very rare.

It's important to remember you can't catch it from someone else!

As you get older, your risk of getting cancer does get bigger.
About 65% of cancers in the UK affect people over the age of 65.

Children can get cancer in the same parts of the body as adults do.

But some types of cancer are more common
in young people like Leukaemia.

Childhood Leukaemia is cancer of the blood
which can spread into the bone marrow -
or soft tissue in the middle of bones.

The most common types in older people are:

Second most common cancer in men
and the third most common in women.
About 94 people die every day from it in the UK.
Smoking causes about 90% of cases.

Most common cancer in women,
but about 300 men a year get it too.

Third most common cancer in the UK.
Mostly affects older people.

Most common cancer in men.
The prostate is a gland near the bladder (men only).

t.cancer5.jpg (13784 bytes)

How is it treated?
Different types of cancers need different kinds of treatment.

There is no absolute cure yet, but lots of
treatments work to get rid of the cancer.

Usually if doctors see where a tumour is,
they will operate to cut it out first.

But the tumour may leave cancerous cells behind in the body.

These have to be blitzed away.

There are two main ways of doing this
- chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Some cancers need both treatments.


-Uses different combinations of drugs

-The drugs spot fast-growing cells which are likely to be
cancerous, then poisons and kills them to stop them spreading

-Usually injected into the bloodstream

 -The chemo swims around the body to
attack cancer cells wherever they are

-Problem is, the drugs can't tell the difference
between cancerous and healthy cells

-Doctors are working on ways of making
chemo kill only bad cancer cells

-Because chemo spots fast-growing cells,
it thinks hair follicle cells are cancerous.
This can cause some people to lose their hair
- but it grows back when treatment stops.


-Uses powerful radiation - similar to x-rays - to destroy cancer cells

-Usually used to treat solid tumours found in just one place

-Can only be given to small areas of the body or
it will damage healthy cells

-Is sometimes used to shrink tumours
before operations to removes them totally.

Both treatments can make people feel
tired and can mean they are more likely
to pick up infections like colds.

Usually they just need to rest and
stay away from flu-ey people.

When someone has gone through treatment
and doctors say they are "in remission",
it means the treatment has killed off the cancer cells in the body.

t.cancer6.jpg (16724 bytes)

Can I avoid getting cancer?
There are things you can do to help your body's
cells keep healthy throughout your life.

Lots of them are about being sensible.

Remember: what you do when you are young
can affect your health in good and bad ways
when you are older.

Things you can do:

-Don't smoke

-Protect yourself in the sun

-Eat a healthy diet - plenty of fruit and veg

-Cut down on red meat

-Don't drink too much alcohol

-Keep your body at a healthy weight -
     not too skinny and not too fat!


-Be aware of changes on your body

-Make sure you check yourself for unusual lumps

-Get any suspicious lump or mark checked
out by a doctor - do not be embarrassed!
To them, bodies are just like car engines

-Don't stress out!

previous                          main page