1 in 2 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime
Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs.
Cancer sometimes begins in one part of the body before spreading to other areas. This process is known as metastasis.In the UK, the 4 most common types of cancer are:
- breast cancer
- lung cancer
- prostate cancer
- bowel cancer
There are more than 200 different types of cancer, and each is diagnosed and treated in a particular way. Below you will find information about different types of cancer and their signs and symptoms.
Spotting signs of cancer
Changes to your body's normal processes or unusual, unexplained symptoms can sometimes be an early sign of cancer.
Symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor include:
- a lump that suddenly appears on your body
- unexplained bleeding
- changes to your bowel habits
But in many cases your symptoms will not be related to cancer and will be caused by other, non-cancerous health conditions.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK.
Around 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. It is vital that women check their breasts regularly as if breast cancer is detected at an early stage, there is a good chance of recovery. In rare cases, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Some of the symptoms include:
- A change in size or shape of either of your breasts
- Dischage from either of your nipples
- A lump or swelling in your armpit
- Dimpling on the skin of your breasts
- A rash around your nipple
- A change in the appearance of your nipple
Everyone has some risk of getting breast cancer, but there are some easy ways to you help reduce your risk. Breast Cancer UK have a prevention quiz which may provide you with some ideas on how you can do this.
Lung cancer is among the most serious and common types of cancer with more than 43,000 people being diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK.
There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, but people with the condition eventually develop symptoms which include:
- A persistant cough
- Coughing up blood
- Persistant breathlessness
- Unexplained weightloss
- Unexplained tiredness
- An ache or pain whilst breathing/coughing
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly. Symptoms of prostate cancer do not usually appear until the prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra). When this happens, you may notice things like:
- An increased need to pee
- Straining while you pee
- A feeling that your bladder is not fully emptied
The causes of prostate cancer are largely unknown. The chances of developing prostate cancer increase as you get older. Most cases develop in men aged 50 or older.
There are a number of different tests to check for prostate cancer, the most common are: blood tests, physical examination, an MRI scan or a biopsy.
You can check your risk using the Prostate Cancer UK risk checker.
Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer. It is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK.
There are three main symptoms of bowel cancer:
- Persistant blood in your poo - that happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit
- Persistant change in bowel habit - which is usually having to poo more, or your poo becoming more runny
- Persistant lower abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort - that is always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss
Although most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer, it is always best to discuss this with your GP.
Cancer Information for people with Learning Disabilities
Below you will find some videos about cancer screening to help inform patients with learning disabilities. You will also find links to easy read materials.
The '2 Week Wait' (2WW) referral
What is a '2 Week Wait' (2WW) referral?
A 'Two Week Wait' referral is a request from your GP to ask the hospital to provide an urgent appointment for you, because you have presented with symptoms that may indicate that you have cancer.
Does this mean that I have cancer?
It is normal to worry when you are urgently referred to see a specialist by your GP, but it is important to note that just because you have been referred for a 'Two Week Wait' appointment, it does not mean that you have cancer. Most people will not have cancer, but if you do, early diagnosis and treatment are important.
Why has my GP referred me?
GPs can diagnose and treat most symptoms and illnesses themselves. However, on some occasions they need to arrange for you to have a hospital assessment, so that you can see a specialist hospital doctor. The ‘Two Week Wait’ referral system was introduced so that you can have investigations done and be seen as quickly as possible.
What will happen?
You may get your appointment by post or over the phone. If you have a phone call, the number might not display. Please do answer. It’s very important that you go to all your appointments and tests. If you can’t attend, contact the hospital as soon as possible to rearrange. If your symptoms change, get worse or if new symptoms develop contact your GP surgery. To ensure that the hospital are able to contact you, it is important to make sure that all of your contact details are up to date with your GP practice. If you do not hear from the hospital within a week, contact your GP surgery.
Having tests and getting results
You should receive information about your tests and any preparations you need to make. You may need to have more than one test on different days. Feel free to ask how you will get your results and how long this should take, although it is important to note that the person testing you will not be able to tell you your results. The doctor who orders your test will explain your results. This is usually your specialist or someone in their team. You also may need to have further tests.
What happens if I have cancer?
There are waiting time targets to get a diagnosis and start treatment, these are slightly different depending on where you live in the UK. We know that this is a difficult and worrying time, but there is lots of help and support available for you and those close to you. You will be given lots of information by your healthcare team, and your GP will also be able to provide you with support. You can ask for details of local support groups and counselling services.
What happens if I don't have cancer?
If you are not diagnosed with cancer, it’s still important that you pay attention to your body. Contact your GP if you notice any new or unusual changes or if your symptoms don’t get better. A health scare makes some people think about improving their general health, for example, keeping a healthy weight or stopping smoking. These things reduce the risk of cancer.
'2 Week Wait' (2WW) referral explanation leaflets
Please see below links to '2 Week Wait' explanation leaflets in multiple languages.
- Chinese simplified
- Chinese traditional
Please see below some more specific information for different types of 2WW referrals.