Types of cancer
By no means a single disease with a single treatment, there are over 200 types of cancer. Each type has its own name and treatment. Click on the links below to find out more about them.
The adrenal glands are part of the body’s endocrine system. Cancer in the adrenal glands can affect how the body produces hormones.
Cancer that starts in the anus is rare, with only about 1,000 new cases in the UK every year. The anus is the opening at the end of the bowel.
Basal cell carcinoma, or BCC, is a cancer of the basal cells at the bottom of the epidermis. It is sometimes called a rodent ulcer. It's very common.
Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) is rare. It is almost always a type of cancer called adenocarcinoma, which starts in the lining of the bile duct.
Every year, there are about 10,000 new cases of bladder cancer in the UK. Of these, eight out of 10 are early bladder cancer.
There isn’t just one type of cancer of the blood – there are many different blood cancers. Leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma are some of the main cancers of the blood.
Bone cancers can start in the bone (primary) or can start elsewhere in the body and spread to the bones (secondary). This section is only about primary bone cancer.
Secondary bone cancer occurs when cancer cells spread to the bone. These cells spread from a primary tumour elsewhere in the body.
Bowel cancer is also called colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon or rectum. This is because the large bowel includes the rectum and colon.
Bowen's disease is a skin lesion that affects the topmost layer (epidermis) of the skin. It appears as a red or brown scaly patch and it is usual to have a single lesion.
Brain tumours can be either cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). This section is about both types of primary brain tumour (a tumour that starts in the brain).
Secondary brain tumours occur when cancer cells spread to the brain from a cancer that started in another part of the body.
Breast cancer is more common in women aged 50 and over, but it can also affect younger women. This section covers breast cancer in women that hasn't spread elsewhere in the body.
Breast cancer in men is rare, although it is possible. About 350 men in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
Secondary breast cancer is cancer that starts in the breast and then spreads to other parts of the body.
Carcinoid tumours affect the neuroendocrine system. This is the system which releases hormones into the body to control the functioning of other organs.
Cervical cancer develops in a woman's cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina. It’s more common in women aged 30-39, but it can also affect younger and older women.
Colorectal cancer is cancer that develops in the bowel. This can be colon cancer or cancer of the rectum. It is more common in people over 60.
If cancer starts in the ear, this is ear cancer. Ear cancer is very rare and is usually a type of skin cancer.
The endocrine system produces hormones – chemicals that control many bodily functions. Tumours can occur in this system. Most endocrine tumours are benign (non-cancerous), but some are malignant (cancerous).
Cancer that starts in the eye is rare. Eye cancer is usually a type of skin cancer, called melanoma.
Gall bladder cancer is rare. It's very rare in people under 50 and is most often seen in people over 70. It's more common in women than men.
Gastro oesophageal junction cancer
Germ cells develop in egg cells and sperm cells. Cancer that starts in these cells is a germ cell tumour.
Oesophageal cancer affects the gullet – the tube that takes food from the throat to the stomach. There are two main types of oesophageal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
There isn’t just one type of head and neck cancer. There are over 30 different places that cancer can develop in the head and neck area.
With kidney cancer, usually only one kidney is affected, and it's rare for cancer to affect the other kidney. Kidney cancer is more common in men than in women.
Around 2,300 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer of the larynx every year. Most cancers of the larynx begin on, or near, one of the vocal cords.
There are a number of different types of leukaemia. The type of leukaemia depends on the type of white blood cell affected.
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a rare type of cancer. It affects how the body produces white blood cells and this can affect how the body fights infection.
AML is a rare type of cancer that affects blood cells. It can affect people at any age but is more common in people over 65.
Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is the most common type of leukaemia. With CLL, the body makes too many undeveloped white blood cells.
Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) is a type of leukaemia that usually develops very slowly. It can occur at any age but is more common in middle-aged and older people.
Liver cancer is a rare type of cancer which starts in the liver. It’s different from secondary liver cancer, where cancer starts elsewhere in the body and spreads to the liver.
Secondary liver cancer is where cancer spreads to the liver from another part of the body. If cancer cells enter the bloodstream, they can settle in the liver.
There are a number of different types of lung cancer. The main types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
If a cancer spreads to the lungs from another part of the body, this is secondary lung cancer (also called metastatic lung cancer).
If cancer spreads into the lymph nodes from elsewhere in the body, this is secondary lymph node cancer. Cancer that starts in the lymph nodes is called lymphoma.
Lymphoma is cancer that starts in the lymph nodes. Lymphoma is usually Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) or non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The difference is in the type of cells the lymphoma affects.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a type of cancer that starts in the lymph nodes. NHL is the fifth most common cancer in the UK.
Melanoma is a cancer that usually starts in the skin. It can either start in a mole or in normal-looking skin. About half of all melanomas start in normal-looking skin.
Mesothelioma is a tumour of the thin lining that covers the outer surface of most of the body's organs. This lining is called the mesothelium.
Mouth cancers can develop on the lip, tongue, the floor of the mouth or anywhere else inside the mouth.
Myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow. You may also hear it called multiple myeloma or myelomatosis.
Nasal cancers are cancers that develop inside the nose. These cancers are rare.
Nasopharyngeal cancer is cancer that starts in the nasopharynx. This is the upper part of the throat, behind the nose.
A neuroendocrine tumour (NET) is a tumour of the neuroendocrine system. The neuroendocrine system releases hormones into the body to control the functioning of other organs.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK. If it’s more advanced, it can affect other organs in the pelvis such as the rectum, bowel or bladder.
Ovarian cancer is cancer that develops in the ovaries. It is one of the most common types of cancer in women. Ovarian cancer is more common in women over 50.
Pancreatic cancer is cancer that develops in the pancreas. The pancreas is a large gland in the body’s digestive system.
Penile cancer (cancer of the penis) is rare. There are approximately 500 new cases in the UK every year. It is more common in men aged between 50 and 70.
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men and is more likely to affect men over 50. It develops in the prostate, a small gland in the pelvis.
Pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP) usually begins as a slow-growing tumour in the appendix. Occasionally, it can start in other parts of the bowel, ovary or bladder.
Cancer that starts in the salivary glands is very rare. The salivary glands are the glands in the mouth and throat that make spit.
A schwannoma is a tumour that starts in the nerve sheath. This is the tissue that covers the nerves.
When a cancer starts in one place in the body and spreads elsewhere, this is a secondary cancer or a ‘metastasis’.
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. This section covers basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Soft tissue sarcomas are cancers that develop from cells in the soft, supporting tissues of the body. They are a rare type of cancer.
Several types of tumour can develop in the spinal cord and not all of these are malignant (cancerous).
Squamous cell carcinoma
There are different types of stomach cancer. This section is about adenocarcinoma, the most common type of stomach cancer. Adenocarcinoma accounts for 95% of stomach cancers.
Testicular cancer is cancer that develops in the testicle. It’s a rare type of cancer and is more likely to affect young or middle-aged men.
The thymus gland is a gland organ in your chest in the body’s immune system. Cancer of the thymus gland is usually thymoma or thymic carcinoma.
Thyroid cancer is cancer that develops in the thyroid. The thyroid is a small gland in the front of the neck just below the voicebox (larynx).
Tracheal cancer is cancer that develops in the trachea. The trachea (windpipe) is the tube that connects your mouth and nose to your lungs.
Cancer of unknown primary (CUP) is when there is a case of secondary cancer but doctors can't tell where the cancer first started, even after they’ve carried out tests.
Vaginal cancer is cancer that starts in the vagina. It is rare but more common in older women.
Vulval cancer can occur on any part of the external female sex organs. Cancer of the vulva is rare.
Womb cancer affects the female reproductive system. It’s more likely to affect women after the menopause. It is also called endometrial cancer.