What is cancer?
The big C word. Cancer. It’s probably ruling your life right now. You may be blaming yourself. That’s what we thought too. But the fact is, anyone can get cancer. And it’s not your fault.
Written by people who've been in your shoes
The advice in this section has been written by people who are under 18 and caring for someone with cancer. You can download their complete handbook - A guide for young people looking after someone with cancer [PDF, 2.52 MB].
Every part of our body is made up of cells that fit together like building blocks. Cells of the same type group together to make different kinds of tissue, for example fat, muscle, bone, nerves and blood (a liquid tissue). Cancer is a disease of these cells.
Cells get worn out and die, but new cells are being made all the time in the body. A normal, healthy cell will split to create two new cells, and then carry on dividing in a controlled way. If this process gets out of control, the cells develop into a lump called a tumour.
Tumours can be in:
- an organ, such as the liver or kidney
- a bone
- the blood (which causes a type of cancer called leukaemia)
- the lymphatic system (which causes a type of cancer called lymphoma).
There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment. People with cancer have to have tests, scans and investigations to find out exactly what type of cancer they have, and to find out whether it has spread in the body. This helps the doctors plan the right treatment for each person. Some common cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
If someone in your family is having treatment for cancer, you might want to know more. You could ask to speak with their doctors (as long as the person with cancer gives their permission).
To make things even clearer, in chapter 12 we’ve included a list of common medical words and phrases that the doctors and nurses might use.
Are you worried about getting cancer because your family member has it?
Many people worry about getting cancer. Sometimes they worry because someone in their family has had cancer, ? and they think it will be passed on from one generation to another (inherited). In fact, fewer than 1 in 10 cases (less than 5-10%) of cancer has been shown to be due to a family history of the disease.
Fewer than 1 in 10 cases of cancer has been shown to be due to a family history of the disease.
You can find out more about:
- Different types of cancer
- Treatments for cancer
- Some of the practical issues that might come up if someone you love has cancer.