Changes to your body’s normal processes or unusual, unexplained symptoms can sometimes be an early sign of cancer.
Symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor include:
- a lump that suddenly appears on your body
- unexplained bleeding
- changes to your bowel habits
But in many cases your symptoms won’t be related to cancer and will be caused by other, non-cancerous health conditions.
It’s important to be aware of any unexplained changes to your body, such as the sudden appearance of a lump, blood in your urine, or a change to your usual bowel habits.
These symptoms are often caused by other, non-cancerous illnesses, but it’s important to see your GP so they can investigate.
If your GP suspects cancer, they’ll refer you to a specialist – usually within 2 weeks.
Cancer that’s diagnosed at an early stage, when it isn’t too large and hasn’t spread, is more likely to be treated successfully. If cancer spreads, effective treatment becomes more difficult, and generally a person’s chances of surviving are much lower.
How early diagnosis can improve survival
More than 9 in 10 bowel cancer patients will survive the disease for more than 5 years if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
More than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive their disease for at least 5 years compared to around 15% for women diagnosed with the most advanced stage of disease.
90% of women diagnosed with the earliest stage ovarian cancer survive their disease for at least 5 years compared to around 5% for women diagnosed with the most advanced stage of disease.
More than 80% of lung cancer patients will survive for at least a year if diagnosed at the earliest stage compared to around 15% for people diagnosed with the most advanced stage of disease.
How do I spot Cancer early?
Knowing what’s normal for your body means you’re more likely to recognise something different. Spotting cancer at an early stage can save lives.
Some parts of our body we can see and touch – and knowing what they usually look and feel like is a good way of being able to know what’s normal for you. But there’s no need to regularly check yourself at a set time or in a set way.
Changes that happen in parts of our body that we can’t see might be more difficult to spot or describe. But being aware of how you usually feel can help you notice when something’s different – whether it’s a cough that hangs around for a few weeks, spotting blood in your poo, having persistent heartburn or any other change that isn’t normal for you. It’s important not to put a change down to just getting older – get it checked out by your doctor– even if you’re not concerned about it.
It’s a good idea from time to time to look at and feel your breasts. But there’s no need to do this regularly at a set time or in a set way. Research has shown that women who regularly self-check their breasts aren’t any less likely to die from breast cancer. But they are almost twice as likely to have a biopsy of a lump that turns out not to be cancer.
Scientists reviewed the evidence and found no studies of a good enough quality to tell if testicular self-exams are effective. But regular testicular self-exams may cause unnecessary investigations and anxiety if they pick up harmless lumps that are not cancerous. It’s still a good idea to look at and feel your testicles every now and then, but there’s no need to worry about doing it regularly in a set way at a set time.
If you are eligible for one of the three NHS cancer screening programmes, you should make every effort to attend. You can find out if you are eligible HERE.
To find out more about signs and symptoms of the most common cancers, the following link will take you yo more information Be Clear on Cancer