What is cancer?

Cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in an out of control way. These abnormal cells can damage or invade the surrounding tissues, or spread to other parts of the body, causing further damage.

About cancer

Cancer can form in almost any part of the body. The type of cancer is often named after the part of the body where the cancer started; for example:

  • breast cancer
  • bowel cancer
  • skin cancer
  • brain cancer.

Cancer that forms in one part of the body can spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. For example, a skin cancer can spread and form cancer in the lungs. When cancer spreads, this is called metastasis.

Cancer is a common disease in Australia, but many cancers can be prevented or treated.

Find out more about cancer

Cancer Australia is the Australian Government’s lead cancer control agency and has lots of information about different types of cancer.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) is Australia's national agency for information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare. The AIHW has lots of reports and statistics about cancer in Australia.

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