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What is Cancer?

A close-up photograph of  a piece of equipment in the Stour Centre.

The body is made up of groups of specialised cells. Cancer is a disease of certain groups of these cells depending on the organ or tissue involved. The growth and repair of cells usually occurs in an organised manner. If for some reason the process gets out of control, the cells will continue to divide and grow developing into a lump which is called a tumour. Tumours can be benign or malignant. The pathologist in the laboratory can tell by examining cells from the tumour under a microscope whether the cells are benign or malignant.

Benign tumours are harmless lumps. Unless they are causing problems, for example pain, they are generally left where they are. Benign tumours are usually slow growing and often stop growing and sometimes can resolve (disappear). Malignant tumours consist of abnormal cells called cancer cells. Cancer cells are cells that not only have the ability to grow abnormally and continually but also have the ability to spread. Cancer cells can spread locally. Some cancer cells also have the ability to spread away from the original lump (or primary tumour) and travel to other parts of the body in the blood stream or lymphatic system. When the cancer cells reach a new site they can either remain dormant or they can continue to grow and divide to form a new tumour. This new tumour is referred to as a metastasis or as a secondary deposit.

Treatment can be offered for both primary and secondary disease. Treatments may include surgery, radiotherapy, hormone treatment and chemotherapy. These treatments are tailored to suite each individual’s needs. It is important to remember that cancer is not one disease. There are hundreds of different types of cancers and many different ways of treating the condition.

You may find other patients you speak to are having different treatments to you. This will happen as cancer can vary from one person to another and your treatment will be designed to suit you as an individual. Try not to compare yourself to others.

For more details on specific types of gynaecological cancer please click on the links below: