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Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

There are many different types of cancer. For information on a specific cancer, see the list below.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a group of conditions 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. This process is known as metastasis.

Spotting signs of cancer

Some changes to your body can be a sign of cancer and it is important to get them checked out by a doctor. Go to Signs and symptoms of cancer for information on spotting cancer.

Types of cancer

You can find more information about specific types of cancer by following the links in the list below.

Reduce your risk of cancer

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.

How common is cancer?

Cancer is a common condition. Around 29,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in Ireland. More than one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime.

The most common cancers in Ireland are:


Treatments for cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Find cancer services

Go to www.cancercontrol.hse.ie for a detailed outline of cancer services.

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

It is important to be aware of any unexplained changes to your body. Typical signs and symptoms of cancer are listed below.

While many of these symptoms are common of other illnesses and usually nothing to worry about, it is important that your GP checks them out to rule out cancer.

Signs and symptoms of cancer


See your GP if you notice a lump anywhere in your body. Your GP will refer you to a specialist for tests if they suspect it is cancer.

Coughing, breathlessness and hoarseness

See your GP if you have had a cough or felt breathless for more than two weeks, or if you have blood in your phlegm when you cough.

Changes in bowel habits

See your GP if you have experienced one of the below changes and this has lasted for more than a few weeks:

  • blood in your stools
  • diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
  • a feeling of not having emptied your bowel properly after going to the toilet
  • pain in your abdomen (tummy) or back passage


See your GP if you have any unexplained bleeding, such as:

  • blood in your urine
  • bleeding between periods
  • blood from your back passage
  • blood when you cough
  • blood in your vomit


See your GP if you have a mole that:

  • has an irregular or asymmetrical shape
  • has an irregular border with jagged edges
  • has more than one colour (it may be flecked with brown, black, red, pink or white)
  • is bigger then 7mm in diameter
  • is itchy, crusting or bleeding

Any of the above changes means there is a chance you have malignant melanoma

Unexplained weight loss

See your GP if you have lost a lot of weight over the last couple of months that cannot be explained by changes in your diet, exercise or stress.

If your GP suspects cancer...

Your GP will urgently refer you to a specialist (usually within two weeks). The specialist will carry out further tests, such as a biopsy or X-ray, and plan any necessary treatment.

Content provided by NHS Choices www.nhs.uk and adapted for Ireland by the Health A-Z.

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