In very simple terms cancer is uncontrolled cell growth.
Although there are many types of cancer affecting different organs in the body, they all are caused by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells.
In a healthy individual cells grow, divide, and die in a highly regulated fashion. During childhood, healthy cells grow and divide very rapidly until the individual becomes an adult. At this stage, cell growth slows until in most parts of the body, cells only divide to replace worn-out or dying cells and repair injuries.
Cancer cells arise when irreparable damage occurs to DNA. This damage can be caused by environmental factors such as excessive sunlight or smoking to name just two. In addition people can inherit damaged DNA accounting for types of cancer that occur in families such as some breast cancers.
Cancer cells often travel to other parts of the body where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue. This process, called metastasis, occurs when cancer cells find their way into the bloodstream or lymphatic system of our body. When cells from a cancer like bowel cancer spreads to another organ like the liver, the cancer is still called bowel cancer, not liver cancer.
Types of Cancer:
- Bladder cancer
- Bone cancer
- Bowel cancer
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Childhood cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Gastrointestinal Cancer/ Stomach cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Leukemia (Acute Myeloid Leukemia)
- Liver Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Oesophagael cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Skin cancer
Given its effect on all Australians, both socially and economically, it is the Australian Cancer Research Foundation’s belief that everyone can play a role in finding treatments for the many different types of cancer. Cancer is a community problem. And all of us need to play a role in the search for the cure. Find out how you can help.
Video kindly provided by Cancer Research UK
- Cancer is the leading cause of death in Australia with over 39,800 people succumbing each year, in spite of a 30 percent improvement in survival over the last two decades.
- 1 in 3 Australian men and 1 in 4 Australian women will be directly affected by cancer before the age of 75. Cancer does not discriminate. It can, and does, affect people of all ages.
- The types of cancer most commonly causing death are lung, prostate and colorectal cancers in males and breast, lung and colorectal in women, which together account for 59% of all cancers.
- In the under 15 years group of childhood cancers, lymphoid leukaemia and brain and central nervous system cancers predominate while melanoma and breast cancers are most common in the 15-44 age groups.
- Most people in Australia will be affected by cancer at some stage in their lives, either personally or through family and friends. This year alone, more than 108,300 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia. And as our population ages, cancer is becoming an ever more prevalent problem.
- The survival rate for many common types of cancers has increased by more than 30 per cent in the past two decades due to treatment improvements and new interventions brought about by research.
- The types of cancer most commonly causing death are lung, prostate and colorectal in males and breast, lung and colorectal in women.
- Queensland has the highest incidence of all cancers in both males and females while Northern Territory has the lowest incidence.
- Melanoma risk is highest in northern areas and lower in more southern areas.
- Excluding melanoma, Tasmania has the highest incidence rate for all cancers combined and the highest mortality rates for both males and females while NSW has the lowest mortality rates.
- Between 1991 and 2001 the incidence rates for all types of cancer rose by 6.5% in females with no significant increase for males. In both males and females the mortality rates in 2001 was the lowest since the cancer registry began operations in 1971.
- About 374,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer (the most frequently occurring cancer in Australia, but the least life-threatening) are also diagnosed each year.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australasian Association of Cancer Registries, Cancer in Australia 2000, Canberra, 2003.
National Cancer Control Initiative, The 2002 National Non-melanoma Skin Cancer
- Cancer Council of Australia website quoting figures from:
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australasian Association of Cancer Registries, Cancer in Australia 2000, Canberra, 2003.
National Cancer Control Initiative, The 2002 National Non-melanoma Skin Cancer Survey, Melbourne, 2003.
Sustained research is helping to reduce the death rate by finding better ways to detect, manage and treat cancer. Twenty years ago there were fewer drugs to fight cancers. No-one knew, for example, that radiotherapy after surgery would dramatically improve survival rates. Twenty years ago therapies were less successful.
The good news is that more than half of the new cases of cancer diagnosed will be successfully treated. Research has made a significant impact on the lives of patients with cancer. The survival rate for many common cancers has increased by more than 30 per cent in the past two decades, due to treatment improvements and new interventions facilitated by research.
Twenty years from now we hope that all cancers will be treated with vaccines, (like Professor Ian Frazer’s breakthrough vaccine to prevent cervical cancer) or using gene-based technology, or other methods we haven’t even though of yet.
Today’s research is tomorrow’s cure. Find out more about the ACRF’s research grants.
But while the wheels are in motion, major hurdles still remain. There are few efficacious agents in any advanced cancer. For example, in advanced prostate cancer there are few agents capable of either curing the disease or allowing for maintenance of excellent quality of life.
So for maximum progress, we have to endeavour to ensure that the best and brightest researchers continue to be drawn to this major problem of mankind. And that funding continues to provide for better facilities and equipment to enable researchers to carry out their vital work.
Your continuing support is vital to the ongoing success of the Foundation and our efforts to fund the very best cancer research.
- The fight against cancer doesn’t come cheaply. Microscopes used in the latest cell-based research, for example, cost more than $1 million each, and the annual cost of treating cancer in Australia is more than $2 billion.
- Cancer costs $2.7 billion in direct health system costs (5.7%). Skin cancer is the most expensive, with annual costs around $300 million.
- $215 million was spent on cancer research in 2000-01, just above 18% of all health research expenditure in Australia.
- “If we can reduce cancer deaths in the next forty years by 20%, we would save $184 billion” (Access Economics report published 2003, Australian Society of Medical Research).
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