What is cancer?

Cancer is when certain cells in your body grow and divide in an uncontrolled way. These cells can invade and destroy surrounding tissues.

Sometimes the cancerous cells can spread (metastasise) from one part of your body to another. There are more than 200 different types of cancer. You can find out about some of the more common types of cancer.

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Treatments for cancer

In most cases, the earlier the cancer is found, the more successful the treatment is. 


Surgery is one of the main treatments for cancer. If the cancer has not spread, surgery may be the only treatment you need. Read more: A guide to cancer surgery (PDF) American Cancer Society


Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer using anti-cancer (cytotoxic) medicines. The medicines travel through your bloodstream and kill cells in your body that grow quickly, such as cancer cells. Other fast-growing normal cells are also killed, which is why these medicines cause major side effects throughout your body. However, bodies are amazing at healing and even when normal cells are damaged, they grow again. Damaged cancer cells are less likely to grow back and this is why chemotherapy can slow or cure the spread of cancer. Read more about chemotherapy.


Radiotherapy is sometimes called radiation treatment or radiation therapy. It uses high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells or prevent them from reproducing. Radiotherapy only affects the part of your body the beam is aimed at. Read more about radiotherapy.

Clinical trials

As part of your cancer treatment, your doctor may suggest that you consider taking part in a clinical trial. These give you access to one of the new cancer treatments being developed. Read more about clinical trials.

Living well with cancer

Eating with cancer

Eating healthy food is important when you are well, and it is also very important when you are receiving treatment for cancer. Read more about eating well when you have cancer.

Sex and cancer

Problems from cancer or its treatment can include lowered sexual desire, physical discomfort or a change in sexual functioning, body image issues or extreme fatigue that also affects your sexuality. Read more about sex and cancer.

Pain with cancer

People who have cancer don't always have pain. However, if you have cancer and you are experiencing pain, don't accept it as a normal part of having cancer. Cancer pain can always be managed. Find out more about managing pain from cancer


There are many support services and information for people affected by cancer and their family/whānau. Find out where you can get support with cancer

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.