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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of cancer

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Cancer happens when cells in your body grow and divide in an uncontrolled way. The cancer cells may form a lump (tumour) and may destroy healthy surrounding tissue. Some cancers can also spread to other parts of your body (metastasis).

There are many different types of cancer and they vary in how fast they grow and spread. Even the same type of cancer can be different for each person who has it.

Cancers cause many different symptoms depending on what parts of the body they're in.

Diagnosing cancer

A wide range of tests are used to diagnose cancer, including blood tests, X-rays, scans and procedures such as colonoscopies and gastroscopies.

Screening tests such as cervical screening, breast screening and bowel screening can lead to cancers being found early before they have caused any symptoms.

Treating cancer

The main treatments for cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

These treatments can cause unwanted side effects, such as nausea, hair loss, and diarrhoea. If you get side effects there are ways of managing them.

Many cancers can be fully cured, especially if they're found early.

Self-care with cancer

Looking after yourself by eating well, keeping active and getting the emotional and spiritual support you need are important parts of managing cancer.

After you've finished cancer treatment it's common to have a mix of emotions including anxiety as well as happiness. You and those close to you may still have to make some adjustments.

Getting help when you have cancer

Being diagnosed with cancer can be difficult for you and your whānau (family). There is help and advice available during all stages from diagnosis and treatment to life after your cancer.

Reducing the risk of cancer

There are many things everyone can do to reduce the risk of cancer. It's still important to do these after you've had cancer.

Supporting someone with cancer

Having someone close to you who has cancer can be challenging. There is help and advice available on how to support a person with cancer.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2021.

See also:

Support for getting active

Page reference: 740961

Review key: HICCR-38555