What is cancer?
Cancer is a disease that has to do with the body's cells. The body is made up of billions of cells. Normal cells
grow and divide (split into two). When they die, they are replaced by new cells.
Sometimes, something goes wrong with some cells and they don't die. They divide out of control and may
grow into a lump (tumour) called cancer. There are over 100 different types of cancer.
How did I get cancer?
Cancer can happen to anybody. Nobody really knows what causes most cancers.
Some things (called risk factors) may make it more likely to happen. These include smoking, not getting enough exercise, drinking too much alcohol, not eating well and being overweight.
Cancer may also develop because of family history or substances in our environment that affect our bodies,
such as chemicals and asbestos. Abnormal cells grow out of control
Cancer won't go away without treatment
How can I find out if I have cancer?
Different tests help the doctor find out if
you have cancer and what type it is.
You may have tests using machines
that look inside the body (scans) or
blood tests. Sometimes the doctor
removes some cells from the tumour to
see if they are healthy or not (biopsy).
These tests will also help the doctor
decide what treatment you need.
What happens if I have cancer?
Cancer is treated in different ways including:
surgery to cut out the cancer
medicines called chemotherapy
x-rays called radiotherapy.
Cancer doesn't always cause death.
Cancer is not punishment for
something you did wrong.
You can’t catch cancer from
someone who has cancer.
You can have visitors in hospital.
Treatment doesn’t always make
you feel sick.
Not everyone loses their hair.
Treatment helps cancer go away.
There are many kinds of cancer treatments.
What are the main treatments?
The treatment used depends on the type of cancer and
if the cancer has spread. Sometimes more than one
treatment is used.
Surgery: an operation to cut out a cancer.
Chemotherapy: strong medicine that kills cancer
cells. It is usually given as an injection into a vein
(intravenously). It is sometimes given as a tablet.
Radiotherapy: powerful beams that you can't see
(called x-rays) that go into the body to kill cancer cells.
It doesn’t hurt and only takes a few minutes.
Other medicines: these can stop the cancer growing.
Talk to your doctor about how much treatment costs.
Where do I have treatment?
Most people have treatment in a
Surgery: you may need to stay in
hospital for a few days.
Chemotherapy: you may have
chemotherapy daily, weekly or
monthly for several months to a year.
You will have short breaks between
treatments for your body to get better.
Radiotherapy: it is usually given
Monday to Friday for a few weeks. Cancer Council Helpline
13 11 20
Your local Aboriginal
rid of cancer
What side effects might I have?
Feeling sick (nausea)
Loss of appetite
Hair falling out
Problems with weight gain or loss
Puffy (swollen) arm or leg
Trouble thinking clearly
Problems going to the toilet
Not being able to have a baby
What can I do about the side effects?
Ask your doctor how they can help you
feel better. They may be able to give
you medicines to stop the side effects.