Are You Clear on Cancer? A Simple visit to the GP Could Save Your Life…

Cancer is one of the biggest killers in the world, afflicting more than one in three people during their lifetime. Each year a staggering 14.1 million cancer cases are diagnosed around the world, and this is predicted to rise to 24 million by 2035.

However, plenty of evidence exists to show that a patient’s treatment options and chance of recovery is far greater if the cancer is spotted at an early stage. For instance, a person’s chance of surviving from bowel cancer for an additional five years is 90% higher if the cancer is diagnosed early enough, but this rate drops to just 6% at the most advanced stage, and death is likely. A similar pattern holds true for numerous other types of cancer too.

This is where the Department of Health’s Be Clear on Cancer campaign is vital as the initiative looks to increase the UK public’s awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer, in addition to urging people with symptoms to see their doctor at the earliest possible chance to boost the chance of catching cancer early to make a full recovery.

Be Clear on Cancer has been formulated to primarily target the over-50s from lower socio-economic groups, as it is believed this demographic typically delay in seeing the doctor about persistent symptoms. The campaign has focused on a number of things so far, including:  bowel cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, blood in the urine (a key symptom of bladder and kidney cancer), oesophago-gastric and ovarian cancers. There is also a breast cancer campaign aimed specifically at women over the age of 70 and a cancer symptoms campaign called ‘Know 4 sure’.

As highlighted previously, it is imperative to get yourself checked out for diagnosis at the earliest chance, to boost your survival chance. Therefore, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any inexplicable changes to your body. Cancer symptoms can vary depending on where the body they appear, and symptoms that may be similar to cancer usually turn out to be something less serious.  However, if you notice anything unusual, it is still vital to make an appointment to see your doctor.

Most doctors and other health experts generally agree on a number of crucial symptoms to be aware of with regards to cancer. These include:

. A change in your regular bowel habits (i.e. diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason, or blood in your stools).

. A cough lasting more than three weeks.

. A mouth or tongue ulcer lasting more than three weeks.

. Blood in your urine.

. Breathlessness.

. Changes in the shape, size or colour of a mole.

. Coughing up blood.

. Inexplicable weight loss or heavy night sweats.

. Regular problems with swallowing and indigestion.

. The appearance of a lump or swelling on your body.

Many people are still unsure why they have developed cancer, and the answer is there are a multitude of factors that can increase your risk. Age is the main risk and unfortunately something we cannot control. Age is a risk factor as cell’s that become cancerous usually take many years to develop. Moreover, there has to be a number of genetic mutations within a cell for it to become cancerous. Some people are born with one mutation already and although it is not a certainty the person will get cancer, they are statistically more likely to at some point during their lifetime.

Other cancer risks we can control however. For example, smoking is the single biggest cause of lung cancer, responsible for over 8 out of 10 cases (86%) as well as being linked to some cases of lung cancer in non-smokers, due to second-hand smoking (passive smoking). A long-term heavy alcohol intake and prolonged exposure to sunlight are also risks for cancer.

Though evidence is open to debate, it is thought that a diet high in processed meats and red meat can, with insufficient fruit and vegetables, heighten your risk of cancers such as bowel, breast and prostate cancer.

Obesity is yet another high risk, being linked to cancers of the breast, colon and rectum, endometrium (the lining of the uterus), gallbladder, kidney, oesophagus, pancreas, thyroid and maybe even other types of cancer.

Therefore, Medical Specialists™ Pharmacy urge you to be aware of the common symptoms of cancer and do not hesitate to see a GP if you spot any signs of cancer. You are not wasting anyone’s time and you will be able to stop worrying if it is nothing serious. If your doctor believes you might have cancer you will be referred to a specialist, usually within two weeks. Further tests will then be carried out – such as an X-ray or biopsy – and suitable treatment options will be discussed with you.

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