Stay ahead of the trend in fashion and beyond with our free weekly Lifestyle Edit newsletter. It is common knowledge that early detection of cancer increases the chances of survival. However, research has shown that half of UK adults with possible cancer symptoms do not contact their GP within six months. A YouGov poll conducted for Cancer Research UK (CRUK) found that only 48% of individuals who experienced red flag symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss and unusual lumps, sought medical attention within six months. Dr. Julie Sharp, CRUK’s head of health and patient involvement, notes that although red flag symptoms may seem difficult to ignore, many individuals do so. She also acknowledges that those from deprived backgrounds face additional barriers to seeking help and emphasizes the importance of contacting a GP when any unusual health changes are noticed.
Failing to inform a doctor about unusual health changes can decrease the chances of an early cancer diagnosis. When bowel cancer is diagnosed at stage one, more than 9 out of 10 individuals will survive for five years or more. However, when diagnosed at stage four, the chances of survival drop to just 1 in 10. Dr. Sharp lists several symptoms that individuals should have checked by a doctor immediately. She emphasizes that in most cases the symptoms won’t be cancer, but early detection can make a significant difference and potentially save lives.
1. Unexplained Pain: While it’s common to experience aches and pains as we age, persistent and unexplained pain could be a sign of a more serious issue.
2. Heavy Night Sweats: Night sweats can be caused by various factors, but excessive and drenching night sweats can be a symptom of certain cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma.
3. Unexplained Weight Loss: Significant weight loss without any effort to do so can be a sign of cancer, among other medical conditions.
4. Unusual Lumps or Swelling: Persistent lumps or swelling in any part of the body, including the neck, armpit, stomach, groin, chest, breast, or testicle, should be taken seriously.
5. Fatigue: Unexplained tiredness that doesn’t go away with rest could indicate an underlying health issue.
6. Unexplained Bleeding: Any unexplained bleeding in the stool, urine, vomit, or vaginal area should be checked by a doctor. The blood may appear red, brown, or black.
7. Skin Changes: Changes in the skin, such as sores that won’t heal, new moles, or changes in the size, shape, or color of existing moles, should be evaluated. Additionally, any unusual changes in skin patches or nails should be examined by a medical professional.
8. Digestive and Eating Problems: Difficulty swallowing, persistent heartburn or indigestion, and appetite loss can be red flags for cancer. While they can also be caused by other conditions or lifestyle factors, it’s important to have them evaluated by a doctor.
9. Hoarse Voice, Cough, or Breathlessness: A hoarse voice lasting more than three weeks, an unexplained cough that persists or worsens, or increased breathlessness should all be brought to the attention of a healthcare professional.
10. Toileting Changes: Changes in bowel habits, problems urinating, pain while urinating, or blood in the urine or stool warrant medical evaluation.
11. Persistent Mouth Ulcer: Mouth ulcers usually heal within two weeks. However, an ulcer or red/white patch that doesn’t heal after three weeks should be reported to a doctor or dentist.
12. Unusual Breast Changes: Breast cancer symptoms may include changes in size, shape, or feel of the breast, skin changes, redness, pain, or fluid leakage from the nipple.
13. Persistent Bloating: While bloating is common and often not serious, feeling bloated most days, even intermittently, should be discussed with a doctor. Persistent bloating can be a symptom of various cancers, including ovarian cancer.
Staying vigilant and seeking medical advice for any concerning symptoms is crucial for early cancer detection. Look out for any changes in your health and reach out to your GP if anything seems unusual. Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry.