Cancer is a proliferative disease in which abnormal cells in the body grow out of control, invading and destroying normal tissue.

Cancerous cells divide uncontrollably to form a lump of tissue called a tumour. A single tumour can cause localised symptoms, but becomes more serious if it turns malignant and starts to spread. This happens when a single cancer cell breaks away from the main tumour and starts growing and dividing elsewhere in the body. This process of a tumour spreading to other parts of the body is called metastasis. Once a tumour has metastasised, it becomes much more difficult to treat, and can cause more extensive symptoms, as larger areas of the body are affected.

There are over 200 different types of cancer, although cancers of the lung, breast, colon and prostate account for over half of all new cases.

Different tumour types have different causes, different symptoms and require different types of treatment. Pharminox programmes target some of the most common types of solid tumour, including colon, lung and breast.

The incidence of cancer in developed countries is growing steadily and one in three people can now expect to suffer cancer at some stage during their lifetime, with one in four actually dying from the disease. This increased incidence is attributable to a number of factors, including demography, environment and lifestyle. Cancer is primarily a disease of the elderly, with the majority of cases occurring in people aged over 65, although the incidence of some cancers, for example malignant melanoma, is also increasing rapidly in the younger population. It is estimated that up to one third of all cases are attributable to smoking and one third to poor diet. The increase in obesity in developed countries over recent years is a significant risk factor for cancer, in particular cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

There is no single treatment for cancer - doctors have a range of options available and must decide which is best for each patient. They will often combine several types of treatment for greater effect.

For example, the patient's age, history and lifestyle are very important in deciding on the best treatment. Doctors will involve the patient in the decision as much as possible.

Treatment options currently available to doctors include chemothrapy, radiotherapy, surgery, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and more recently gene therapy.

For more information on the different types of cancer, their diagnosis and the types of treatment available, please see the Links page on this site.

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