Cancer is a condition in which the body's cells grow and spread in an uncontrolled manner. A cancerous cell can arise from almost any cell, and therefore cancer can be found almost anywhere in the body. Cancer cells that do not spread beyond the immediate area in which they arise are said to be benign i.e. they are generally not dangerous. If these cells spread into surrounding areas, or to different parts of the body, they are known as malignant - commonly referred to as cancer. Other terms used to describe cancer are 'malignant neoplasms' and 'malignant tumours'.
Cancers accounted for 28.1% of Australian deaths in 2017, around 45,200 people. Lung cancer accounted for the most cancer deaths (8,262 or 5.1% deaths), making it the second leading cause of death for males and fifth leading cause overall. Bowel cancer was the sixth leading cause of death, accounting for 5,325 in 2017, followed by blood cancers 4,499 deaths. Prostate cancer (3,275 deaths) was the sixth ranked cause for men whilst breast cancer was the sixth ranked cause for women (2,898 deaths).
In this publication, cancer data refers to persons who reported ever been told by a doctor or nurse they have cancer (including cancer in remission). Cancer is regarded as a long-term condition, that is, expected to last for six months or more, although it is recognised that some cases of cancer may not meet the six month threshold, for instance, a person who is diagnosed with skin cancer can have surgery to successfully remove the cancer. There are two main groupings:
- malignant neoplasms
- benign neoplasms
Non-melanoma skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are included in 'malignant neoplasms'.