The cancer team will make sure you are involved in planning your cancer treatment and will discuss all of your options with you.
There is a range of treatment for cancer, and commonly a combination of treatments are given.
Most people with cancer require surgery. Radiotherapy can also be used to treat cancer in a particular part of the body. Systemic treatments can be used to treat cancer in more than one part of the body at a time, such as drug therapy including chemotherapy.
What is cancer
Cancer is a group of conditions where the body's cells begin to grow and reproduce uncontrollably. These cells can then invade and destroy healthy tissue, including organs. Cancer sometimes begins in one part of the body before spreading to other parts. This process is metastasis.
Cancer is a common condition. Around 298,000 new cases are diagnosed in the UK every year. More than one in three people will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime.
Signs and symptoms of cancer
Some changes to your body can be a sign of cancer and it is important to get checked out by your GP as soon as possible.
See NHS Choices for more information about signs and symptoms.
If your GP suspects cancer you will be referred to a hospital specialist, usually within two weeks. The specialist will carry out further tests and plan your future treatment with you if you are diagnosed with cancer.
Cancer is diagnosed using one or more tests.
- X-ray (radiological) appearances
- Blood tests
A biopsy is the most important way of diagnosing cancer.
A biopsy is the removal of a piece of tissue, which can be examined under the microscope by a pathologist who is trained to recognise the appearance of cancer (and other diseases).
A biopsy can identify whether there is a primary or secondary cancer, or whether there is pre-cancer (carcinoma in-situ).
A biopsy can be obtained with a needle under local anaesthetic, by a minor operation under local or general anaesthetic or by a major operation.
Cytology is a collection of cells which can be examined under the microscope by a cytologist (pathologist) who is trained to recognise the appearance of cancer.
Cytology can identify whether cancer cells are present. On its own it cannot distinguish between cancer and pre-cancer (carcinoma – in-situ). It can sometimes tell the type of cancer.
Cytology samples are obtained from a smear test, from a needle taken from a lump or a fluid collection taken by needle, or from a washing of part of the lung.
X-ray (radiology) Sometimes it is not feasible to obtain a biopsy from a patient, usually because taking it may be too dangerous, or not very helpful. In such cases, usually relating to the brain or lung, an X-ray or scan is used to diagnose cancer.
Blood tests on their own they are not able to diagnose cancer, but occasionally they may help to confirm the results of cytology and X-rays or scans..