Cancer

Cancer is a general term used to refer to a condition where the body’s cells begin to grow and reproduce in an uncontrollable way. These cells can then invade and destroy healthy tissue, including organs. Cancer sometimes begins in one part of the body before spreading to other parts.

How common is cancer

Cancer is a common condition and a serious health problem. Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, there are around 9,000 new cases diagnosed each year in Northern Ireland.

It is estimated that one in two people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. Being aware of the signs and symptoms linked to the condition can help with early detection. This is important because the earlier cancer is detected, the better the chances of successful treatment.

Types of cancer

There are hundreds of different types of cancer. The most common cancers in Northern Ireland (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) are:

Risk factors

The biggest risk factor for developing cancer is age, with the majority of cancers more common in older people in Northern Ireland. There are many other risk factors for developing cancer, including:

  • smoking
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • obesity
  • poor diet
  • lack of exercise
  • prolonged exposure to sunlight

Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer. Eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and avoiding smoking will all help to lower your risk of cancer and other serious health conditions.

General signs and symptoms of cancer

Being aware of the general signs and symptoms of cancer is important. It can help in earlier detection and treatment of the illness. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms you should ask your doctor to check out:

  • coughing up blood
  • blood in your urine
  • blood mixed through your bowel motion (stools)
  • a change in bowel habit that lasts for more than six weeks
  • unexplained, significant weight loss (5kg/10lbs over a couple of months)
  • a lump anywhere on your body
  • changes to your skin or to an existing mole (such as itching, bleeding or a change in shape or colour)
  • a sore that doesn’t heal
  • symptoms that refuse to clear up, such as a cough or hoarseness that lasts for more than three weeks

If you experience any of the symptoms above, it is important that you see your doctor and have your symptoms checked out.

Talk to your doctor

If you have any of the signs and symptoms above, talk to your doctor. You are not wasting anyone’s time, and if it isn’t serious, your mind will be put at ease. If it is cancer, however, early diagnosis can make all the difference. The sooner cancer is detected, the better the chances of successful treatment.

If you experience any symptoms which worry you, speak to your doctor. Online information is not a substitute for taking to a qualified medical professional.

Treatments for cancer

Treatment for cancer will depend on many factors, such as the stage and location of your cancer. Treatments for cancer usually include one or a combination of the following:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy

Some cancers can be cured if they are detected early enough.

Cancer screening

Regular cancer screening is important. Screening can detect certain cancers before you have any symptoms. Finding cancers early means that treatment has a better chance of success.

In Northern Ireland, the Public Health Agency runs screening programmes for breast, cervical and bowel cancers. The aim of screening is to detect cancer at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be effective.

Other cancer conditions

There are many other different types of cancer, including:

The information on this page was provided by the Department of Health.

For further information see terms and conditions.

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.