Types of Cancer

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Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells in the body. There are more than one hundred different types of cancer.

This section explains some of the more 'common' types of cancer that affect Tasmanians.

Head and neck cancer

Head and neck cancers include cancers of the mouth, tongue, salivary glands, throat (pharynx) voice box (larynx), sinuses, middle ear and nasal cavities.

The symptoms of head and neck cancers vary depending on the area of the body that is being affected.

Mouth cancer symptoms:

  • mouth pain or pain when swallowing
  • a sore or swelling in the mouth or jaw that doesn't go away
  • white patches or red patches on the gums, tongue or mouth.

Salivary gland cancer symptoms:

  • swelling or numbness on one side of the face or under the jaw
  • the sides of the face or neck look different to each other
  • difficulty swallowing
  • muscle weakness or one side of the face that droops (palsy).

Throat cancer symptoms:

  • throat pain
  • persistent sore throat or cough
  • coughing up mucous with blood
  • voice changes (e.g. scratchy)
  • swallowing difficulties
  • a lump in the neck.

Nasal area and sinus cancer symptoms:

  • persistent blocked nose (especially in one nostril)
  • nosebleeds
  • mucus draining into the back of the nose or throat
  • frequent headaches or sinus pressure.

Voice box cancer symptoms:

  • swelling in the throat or neck
  • persistent sore throat
  • voice changes (e.g. scratchy)
  • swallowing difficulties or pain
  • lump in the neck.

For more information, visit the Cancer Australia Website

Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic Cancer affects a small gland behind the stomach that helps with digestion of food and produces hormones including insulin.


In the early stages of cancer of the pancreas, there are often no signs or symptoms. When these do develop, they include:

  • pain in the abdomen or middle back
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea or vomiting
  • a change in bowel movements, either to diarrhoea or constipation (or both)
  • a yellow colour to the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • weight loss
  • ongoing tiredness.

For more information, visit the Cancer Australia Website

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is a significant problem for Tasmanian men. In 2011, 496 Tasmanian men were diagnosed with prostate cancer.


  • trouble starting the urine flow
  • slow flow or stopping and starting
  • passing urine frequently
  • feeling of incomplete emptying after urination
  • pain during urination
  • blood in urine or semen.

For more information, visit the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia Website

Lung cancer

Lung cancer happens when some cells in the lungs change, grow abnormally and become malignant. Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in Australia with around 8,000 people dying from the disease each year.


  • a new or changed cough that doesn't go away
  • shortness of breath (when not doing anything active)
  • hoarse voice (e.g. scratchy, weak or husky)
  • chest and/or shoulder pain or discomfort
  • frequent chest infections.

We know that smoking is a major cause of lung cancer. The greatest preventative measure that can be taken is to quit smoking.

If you would like to quit smoking, visit the Quit Tasmania website for more information.

For more information about lung cancer, visit the Cancer Australia Website

Skin cancer

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Around 13,000 Australians develop melanoma every year.

Melanoma is mainly caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning machines or solariums.


Symptoms include the appearance of a new mole or spot on your skin, as well as any changes to an existing one. To identify a new mole or spot that could be a sign of skin cancer, check the:

  • asymmetry – one side differs from the other
  • border – the edge becomes uneven
  • colour changes (such as black, brown, red, bluish or white)
  • diameter – keep a careful watch on moles that are over six millimetres wide (about half a centimetre)
  • evolution – any other unusual changes (such as flaking, bleeding, itching or soreness).

For more information, visit the Sunsmart Australia website 

Stomach cancer

Stomach cancer affects the stomach, which is part of the body's digestive system. 


In the early stages, stomach cancers often do not cause symptoms. The most common symptoms of stomach cancer are:

  • indigestion, also called heartburn
  • frequent burping
  • nausea
  • pain in the stomach or abdomen
  • swelling of the abdomen or feeling bloated
  • trouble swallowing.

For more information, visit the Cancer Australia Website

Testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in men aged between 15 and 45 years.


  • a lump or swelling in either testicle (often that doesn't hurt)
  • a change in how the testicle feels
  • a feeling of heaviness in the testicle
  • pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum
  • an ache in the lower stomach or groin area

For more information, visit the Andrology Australia Website