What is cancer?

All cancers begin as normal cells. The body is made up of many types of cell, which usually grow and divide in a controlled way to make more cells. These new cells are needed to keep the body healthy. When cells become old or damaged, they die and are replaced with new cells.

The way a cell grows, and divides and dies is controlled by its genes (DNA). Sometimes DNA gets damaged or changed. If this damage affects genes that tell a cell when to grow, divide or die, cells do not die when they should, and new cells form when the body does not need them. The extra cells which are made, change the composition of the blood, or forms a lump, called a tumour, which is the beginning of cancer.

beginnings of cancer

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Information Product No. PCA0011v1 | Published: 03/01/2014 | Last Updated: 18/04/2015 | Next Review Due: 03/01/2017