What is cancer?

Normally cells in our body work in a controlled way. They divide and form new cells to replace the old cells. Cancer makes cells multiply in an uncontrolled way. These cells harm the body where they first grow (this is called the primary tumour). These cells may spread to other parts of the body (this is called secondary tumour or metastasis).

In most cases, we don’t know why children get cancer. Things that cause adult cancers like smoking and chemicals do not cause children’s cancers. Children’s cancers occur in different parts of the body than adult cancers. Children’s cancers look different under a microscope and respond differently to treatment. Cure rates for children’s cancers are higher than for adults. Children’s cancers are not common.

In Victoria, around 200 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer each year. There are many different types of cancer. The most common childhood cancers are Leukaemias, Brain Tumours and Lymphoma.

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