Disease & Drug Info

Types of Cancer

Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.

The three ways that cancer spreads in the body are through:

  • Tissue: cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue
  • Lymph system: cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body
  • Blood: cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body

Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer. Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start  -- for example, cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer; cancer that begins in basal cells of the skin is called basal cell carcinoma.

Many of the most common types of cancer are found here. For others, visit the National Cancer Institute website, the source of disease information on this website.

For questions about terms used in the cancer descriptions, use the Cancer Glossary and Drug Dictionary.