The disease causes cells in specific parts of the body to grow and reproduce uncontrollably, leading to cancerous cells invading and destroying healthy tissue and organs.
Cancer will usually develop in one part of the body first before spreading to other areas, so being able to spot the signs and catch it quickly is key as it is much easier to treat in the early stages.
Seeking advice from a GP as soon as possible if you are worried about symptoms is especially important as some 65,400 people every month in England are waiting too long to for a cancer diagnosis, according to Cancer Research UK.
A new target introduced last autumn says people should either be diagnosed with the disease or have it ruled out within 28 days of an urgent referral by their GP, referral for breast cancer symptoms or if they have been picked up through screening.
The aim is for 75% of these people to receive either a cancer diagnosis or the all-clear within a month, yet Cancer Research UK’s analysis shows this target has not yet been met since it was introduced. Figures have varied, but it stood at 74% in February.
Even if the target was met, the charity warns that 55,000 people every month would still be left waiting to find out whether they have the disease. Data also shows a large variation across England, with only 78 out of 143 hospital trusts meeting the 75% standard.
Cancer Research UK said people were being failed by the system, which lacks the capacity to deal with the numbers needing to be seen, and warned that due to chronic shortages of specialists across the NHS, the target was also set too low.
A total of 5.7 million people were waiting to start routine hospital treatment at the end of August 2021, according to NHS England figures, which is the highest since record began in August 2007.
The number of people waiting more than two years to start treatment rose to 9,754 in August, which is more than three times the 2,722 people who were waiting longer than two years in April. However, waiting times did fall for the number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment for the fifth month in a row to 292,138.
The NHS says if your GP suspects you may have cancer you will be referred to a specialist as soon as possible, usually within two weeks.
If you have been experiencing any unusual or worrying symptoms and are concerned it could be cancer, you should seek advice from your GP as soon as possible.
If you are unsure what symptoms to look for, these are the seven major warning signs most commonly associated with the disease.