Our bodies are made up of millions of tiny cells. Our bodies are making new cells all the time. Most of the time these are healthy cells that help us to grow and to heal.
Sometimes, the body makes cells that aren’t normal. These are called cancer cells and they can make people sick. Often, they grow more quickly than normal cells.
Some cancers affect our blood cells. Others grow as a lump in our body called a tumour. Some tumours are benign, which means they usually do not grow or spread to other parts of the body, or do so very slowly. Other tumours are malignant, which means they can grow and spread.
How do you get cancer?
Doctors don’t know what causes most cancers. We do know that in adults some things like smoking or too much sun can increase the chances of getting cancer.
Cancer in children is a big mystery. What we do know is that kids don’t do anything wrong to get cancer. And you definitely can’t catch cancer from someone else.
What are the different types of cancer?
There are more than 100 types of cancer. Different cancers affect men, women and children. Many are named after the part of the body where the cancer cells grow; for example, stomach cancer or brain cancer.
Some cancers you might hear about are:
- Leukaemia: (say loo-KEE-mee-ah) a cancer that affects blood cells
- Lymphoma: (say lim-FOE-ma) another type of cancer that impacts blood cells
- Sarcoma: cancer cells that develop in the bone, muscle or connective tissue
- Neuroblastoma: this is a cancer that affects the nerve cells. Nerves send messages to our brains and organs to keep our bodies working
- There are many different types of cancers that are not covered here. If you have questions, speak to an adult you know and trust.
What are the treatments for cancer?
Different cancers are treated in different ways. Often people who have cancer will need to go to hospital for treatment. Sometimes people need more than one type of treatment.
- Chemotherapy: often called “chemo”. This is very strong medicine that slows down, or gets rid of, cancer cells
- Radiotherapy: this involves invisible beams of X-ray that go into the body to kill cancer cells
- Surgery: this is “having an operation” to remove the cancer. A surgeon does this job with a team of other specialist doctors
- Transplants: this involves taking healthy cells from the body, storing them, and then putting them back in the body to “top up” the number of healthy cells
Find out more
The Kids’ Guide to Cancer is a free app for children to learn all about cancer. It’s interactive and educational, and it provides answers to common questions about cancer.
You can download it on the Apple App Store or through Google Play. Ask an adult you trust if you need help.