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Cancer is the result of a change in the DNA, the hereditary material that is in the cell nucleus. The changes in the DNA partly happen because of external damage (UV-radiation, alcohol, smoking, asbestos) but often we just don’t know. Usually the body clears away these damaged cells, sometimes it doesn’t. The reason why such a damaged cell leads to cancer one time and not the other is still not clear
In 2020 over 120,000 people in the Netherlands heard that they had cancer. The total number of people in the Netherlands who have ever been diagnosed with cancer and who are still alive is estimated to be about 750,000. Detailed numbers can be found at
There are over 100 different sorts of cancer. Each sort has its own name. The name is given according to the tissue where the cancer cells originate, the place where cancer started, or after the doctor who discovered it. There is breast cancer, bowel cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, brain tumours, leukaemia, prostate cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, Multiple myeloma, and so on.
No, cancer is not catching
No, cancer is already very old. During excavations in Egypt, they found mummies of people who had died of cancer.
Every now and then cancer runs in the family and we know that a few sorts can be hereditary. However, for most sorts of cancer that is not the case. If your mother or father has a hereditary sort of cancer, it doesn’t mean that you will get it later too. When you’re an adult you can decide yourself if you want to be tested for it.
Cancer comes from the Latin word “cancer” that means a crab or a lobster. A tumour or cancerous tumour is usually not round, but looks like a little ball with little bits sticking out. When they discovered cancer and saw a little ball like that with bits sticking out, it reminded them of a crab or a lobster. KWF Cancer Research`s logo has a lobster in it.
To be honest, we don’t know for sure. In the Netherlands everybody who has cancer is registered. That’s how for years we have known exactly how many people have cancer, what sort of cancer they have, how old they are and whether they are male or female and how they are doing. In order to be able to make an accurate comparison, the record in each country has to be done in the same way. That is rarely the case.
You can die from cancer, but you don’t have to. Every sort of cancer is different and no two people react the same way to a treatment. We do know that some sorts of cancer have a better prognosis than others. Don’t forget there are many people around who used to have cancer, but who are getting on wonderfully well.
A tumour, also known as a lump or a swelling, is a clump of cells. A swelling can be benign (good) or malignant (bad). When we talk about cancer, we mean a malignant swelling.
Cancer cells can wander throughout the body. On the spot where the cancer cells end up, a new tumour can occur. That is what we call metastasis or when the cancer spreads.
A benign tumour can push the surrounding tissue away, but won’t invade it. A malignant tumour has the tendency to grow into it. In addition to that, a malignant tumour can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymph node system.
A prognosis is a prediction of how the illness will develop. With a good prognosis the doctor expects there will be a good result, but with a bad prognosis your mother or father will be ill (for a long time) or will die in the end. Exact predictions are hard to give. After all, every person reacts differently to an illness and to the treatment.
Try to be yourself as much possible, keep going to school, keep doing sports, but also take your home situation into account. Help out more often. Also try to talk to your parents about what you feel or think. Many parents worry about the fact that their child doesn’t say very much.