About cancer

Cancer is a word that’s loaded and scary – there’s a reason it’s sometimes known as the C-word. The truth is though, it will affect most of our lives in one way or another and, as one child told us, ‘the word is scarier than the illness’. On the simplest level, cancer is a disease of the cells in our body. 

What happens when someone has cancer?

The millions of cells in our body do different things. Some convert food into energy, and others cluster together for form organs like the heart.

Cells divide and make copies of themselves, replacing older cells and helping you to grow. But if something goes wrong when this happens, an 'abnormal' cell can be created.

Then the cell usually destroys itself.

Sometimes though, abnormal cells carry on dividing. If these abnormal cells are able to spread to other parts of the body, they are called 'malignant'. This is what cancer is. 

Find out more

Updated March 2018, next review due 2021.