What is cancer?

A malignant tumour is a lump or growth of tissue made up from cancer cells which continue to multiply. Malignant tumours invade nearby tissues and organs, which can cause damage. Malignant tumours may also spread to other parts of the body. This happens if some cells break off from the first (primary) tumour and are carried in the bloodstream or lymph channels to other parts of the body. These small groups of cells may then multiply to form secondary tumours (metastases) in one or more parts of the body. These secondary tumours may then grow, invade and damage nearby tissues and spread again.

Some cancers are more serious than others. Some are more easily treated than others (particularly if diagnosed at an early stage). Some have a better outlook (prognosis) than others. 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 and whether it has spread. This will enable you to obtain reliable information on treatment options and outlook.