Types of Cancer

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a name for a group of diseases that happen when cells in the body grow that aren’t normal, grow and divide in a way that is out of control. In most cases of cancer, these cells have grouped together to cause a growth called a tumour. These dividing cells can interfere with the body’s healthy functions, making you feel unwell. 

If you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor. 

Why is it Important to Me?

Cancer is rare in young people, but sadly it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. 14 young people are diagnosed with cancer everyday in the UK. That means that if you notice something that doesn’t seem quite right, or have a symptom that doesn’t go away, you should speak to a doctor.

There are two categories of skin cancer, these are called melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma usually causes changes to moles or the appearance of a new one, whereas non-melanoma usually affects the skin in other ways.

Both melanoma and non-melanoma are caused by skin cells that develop in a way that isn’t normal. There are several risk factors that can contribute to getting melanoma, including exposure to the sun, or using sunbeds. That’s why it is important to avoid sunbeds, and stay safe in the sun. 

 

Look out for:

  • new moles, or the change in appearance of existing moles.

Non-melanoma is the name for a type of skin cancer, caused by skin cells that develop in a way that isn’t normal. There are several risk factors that can contribute to getting melanoma, including exposure to the sun, or using sunbeds. That’s why it is important to avoid sunbeds, and stay safe in the sun. 

 

Look out for:

  • lumps
  • discoloured patches of skin
  • spots and sores that don’t heal
  • spots and sores that are itchy, sore, scabbed or bleeding
  • unexplained ulcers 

If you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor. 

Lymphoma is a name for a type of blood cancer that starts when your white blood cells (infection fighting cells), called lymphocytes, grow out of control. 

 

Your lymphatic system is a network all around your body that helps you fight infections, like a sore throat. When you have lymphoma, your white blood cells, or lymphocytes, grow out of control and keep on diving. The cells build up, and might collect in areas like your neck or armpits. 

 

There are two groups of lymphoma, these are called Hodgkin lymphomas and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. The names are related to the type of white blood cells that grow out of control.

Leukemia is a name for lots of blood cancers that start in your bone marrow. Bone marrow is the spongy part inside your bones that makes important blood cells. But having leukemia means too many white blood cells (infection fighting cells) are made, and not enough of the others, these new white blood cells don’t work very well either.

Look out for:

  • weakness
  • feeling very tired all the time
  • breathlessness
  • dizziness
  • infections that won’t go away
  • bruising easily 
  • unusual bleeding
  • night sweats
  • weight loss
  • stomach pain 

If you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor. 

There are two categories of brain tumours, these are non-cancerous (also known as ‘benign’) or cancerous brain tumours (also known as ‘malignant’). Within these two categories, there are over 130 types that can start in the brain or spinal cord. They are usually named after the cell that they develop from.

Look out for:

  • headaches
  • changes in your vision, like blurred vision, double vision or eye movements that aren’t normal for you
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • feeling very tired all the time 

If you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor.

Ovaries are a pair of small organs located low in the tummy, they are connected to the womb and store the supply of eggs that are used in reproduction to make a baby. But sometimes things can go wrong, and cancer can develop in one or both ovaries. 

It is usually more common in people that have gone through the menopause (when you stop having periods), but it can occur in any age group and anyone who has ovaries regardless of your gender. 

Look out for:

  • feeling bloated all the time
  • swollen tummy
  • pain in your stomach and/or pelvic area
  • feeling full really quickly
  • losing your appetite
  • needing to wee more often 

A lot of these symptoms are similar to other conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but sometimes it can be cancer. If you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor. 

Cervical cancer can happen when cells that aren’t normal grow and divide in a way that is out of control in the lining of the cervix. Not everyone who is diagnosed with cervical cancer will have symptoms, that means it is really important to go for a cervical screening (or smear test) if you have a cervix. 

Look out for:

  • unusual vaginal bleeding
  • pain or discomfort during sex
  • changes to vaginal discharge
  • pain in the area between your hips

If you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor.

Testicular cancer happens when cells in the balls (usually just one) begin to grow in a way that isn’t normal. They can divide and form a lump or mass called a tumour. There are a few types of testicular cancer, with most cases being germ cell cancer. This means that the cancer starts in the cells the body uses to create sperm. 

 

Testicular cancer isn’t very common, but it is more common in younger people, especially young men. You can get testicular cancer whatever you gender, as long as you have balls. It’s really important that if you have them, you check them.

Look out for:

  • increase in firmness of a ball
  • difference in appearance between one and the other 
  • a dull ache or sharp pain in your balls or scrotum
  • feeling of heaviness in your scrotum
  • a lump in one or both of your balls 

If you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor.

Your thyroid is a hormone-producing gland at the front of your neck, in-between your collar bones. Thyroid cancer can happen when cells in your thyroid develop in a way that isn’t normal. These cells can group together to form a tumour, that might be a lump in the bottom of the neck. But remember, most of the time these lumps are nothing, but sometimes it’s cancer.

Look out for:

  • a painless lump or swelling in front of neck
  • swollen glands in neck
  • a sore throat that doesn’t get better 
  • difficulty swallowing
  • a hoarse voice that doesn’t get better

If you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor.

Breast cancer happens when cells in your breast begin to grow in a way that isn’t normal. They can divide and form a lump or mass called a tumour. Breast cancer is more in women over 50, but anyone can get breast cancer, regardless of their age or gender. 

Look out for:

  • change in size or shape of one or both breasts
  • discharge from either nipples
  • lump or swelling in armpit
  • dimpling of skin on breast
  • rash around nipple, redness of skin on breast 

If you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor.

Sarcomas are a group of cancers that can affect any part of the body, like your muscles, bones, tendons, blood vessels and tissues. There are two main types of sarcoma that have different symptoms, these are soft tissue sarcomas and bone sarcoma (or bone cancer). 

Soft tissue sarcomas affect the tissues that connect, surround and support your body and what makes it up, like your organs. These could be fat, muscle, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments. 

Unfortunately, the symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas are hard to spot, so look out for: swelling under the skin – a painless lump that can’t be moved and gets bigger – swelling in your tummy – persistent feeling of fullness or trouble going to the toilet – a persistent cough – breathlessness 

Bone sarcomas, or bone cancer, can affect any bone in your body, but it is generally more common in your legs and arms. There are a few types of bone cancer, and some that are more common in young people, like osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma. 

 

Look out for:

  • persistent bone pain, especially at night

  • swelling and redness over a bone

  • difficulty in moving a bone that might be near a joint (like knees or elbows)

  • a lump over a bone

  • a weak bone that might break more easily that normal 

You might not have all of these symptoms, so it is really important that if you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor. 

Bladder cancer happens when cells in your bladder begin to grow in a way that isn’t normal. They can grow and form a mass called a tumour, which can happen in the lining of your bladder, and move into your bladder muscles. 

 

The main symptom of bladder cancer is seeing blood in your wee. It might come and go, and isn’t always noticeable, so it could turn your wee a brown colour.

You should also look out for:

  • needing to wee more often

  • sudden urges to wee – burning sensation when passing wee

  • pelvic pain

  • unexplained weight loss

  • swelling in your legs 

Some of these symptoms can be associated with having a water infection (or UTI), but they can sometimes be something more serious, like cancer.  That’s why it’s really important that if you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor. 

Your kidneys are bean shaped organs that work to remote excess waste and fluids from your blood that come out in your wee. Sometimes things can go wrong, and on rare occasions kidney cancer can happen. This occurs when cells grow in a way that isn’t normal. 

The main symptom of kidney cancer is seeing blood in your wee. It might come and go, and isn’t always noticeable, so it could turn your wee a brown colour. 

You should also look out for:

  • a lump or swelling in the area near your kidneys

  • unexplained weight loss

  • a high temperature

  • a pain in your back on one side (below your ribs)

  • feeling tired all the time

  • not being hungry

  • feeling generally unwell and not yourself

If you notice something that doesn’t go away, or is unexplained, speak to a doctor. 

Your bowel is part of your digestive system. Your digestive system is made up of your small bowel (or small intestine) and your large bowel (colon and rectum). Bowel cancer refers to cancer that happens in your large bowel.

Look out for:

  • blood in your poo, especially combined with a change in your toilet habits

  • pooing more than usual

  • a different look or colour of your poo

  • lower tummy pain

  • bloating or discomfort

  • not being hungry

  • unexplained weight loss 

But most of these symptoms are usually nothing to worry about. If they go on for a long time or don’t get any better, speak to a doctor.

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