We all know that the earlier cancer is detected, the greater the chance of survival. But new research has found that half of British adults with a possible cancer symptom do not contact their GP within six months.
A YouGov survey of 2,468 people for Cancer Research UK (CRUK cancerresearchuk.org) found that only 48% of those who had experienced a red flag symptom, such as unexplained weight loss and a new or unusual lump, contacted their doctor within six months. family doctor .
“You might think that red flag symptoms, such as coughing up blood or unexplained bleeding, are hard to ignore, but this research shows that many are,” said Dr. Julie Sharp, head of the Health and Safety Department. CRUK patient participation.
She points out that people from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular have more barriers to seeking help, stressing: “Whether it’s a red flag symptom or not, if you notice a change in your health that is unusual for you or doesn’t go away, please contact your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor is there for you and would like to hear about any concerns.”
Not telling a doctor about unusual health changes can reduce the chances of getting an early cancer diagnosis. When diagnosed in stage one – the earliest stage – more than nine in 10 (92%) people will survive colon cancer for five years or more. It is one in 10 (10%) when diagnosed in stage four – the final stage.
Sharp says anyone who has any of the following symptoms should get them checked out by a doctor right away. She stresses that in most cases it won’t be cancer, but if it is, spotting it early can make a real difference and potentially save your life.
1. Unexplained Pain
Pain is a sign that something is wrong, and while it’s easy to hope it goes away, if it persists, it’s important to get it checked out. “As we get older, it’s more common to experience aches and pains,” Sharp says. “But unexplained pain can be a sign of something more serious.”
2. Heavy night sweats
Sharp says there are many reasons why you might sweat at night, including infections, certain medications, or going through menopause. However, very heavy, soaking night sweats can also be a sign of several cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma.
3. Unexplained Weight Loss
There are, of course, many reasons for unexplained weight loss other than cancer, including bowel and thyroid problems. But Sharp says that while small weight changes over time are normal, if you lose a noticeable amount of weight without trying, you should let your doctor know.
4. Unusual Lumps or Swelling
Lumps are one of the most well-known cancer symptoms, and while they can be caused by much less serious problems such as an injury, Sharp emphasizes that persistent lumps or swellings in any part of the body, including the neck, armpit, stomach, groin, chest, breast or testicle, should be taken seriously.
Fatigue can, of course, be caused by many things, including stress, autoimmune problems, or just sleep problems. “But if you’re feeling tired for no apparent reason, it could be a sign that something is wrong,” Sharp says.
6. Unexplained Bleeding
Unexplained bleeding in poo, pee, or vomiting, coughing up blood, or unexplained vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause should be checked out by a doctor, Sharp says, explaining that the blood can look red, brown, or black. Such bleeding can often be caused by something much less serious than cancer, but you should always report it to your doctor, she stresses.
7. Skin Changes
These can include a sore that doesn’t heal, a new mole, or changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole, plus crusting, itching, or bleeding. Look at what doctors call the ABCDE checklist to help you spot important changes. In addition, Sharp says any unusual changes in a patch of skin or a nail should be checked out by a doctor.
8. Digestive and Eating Problems
Problems like difficulty swallowing, unusual heartburn or indigestion, or loss of appetite can be red flag symptoms of cancer, Sharp says, although they can also be caused by a host of other things, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers, or simply the eating a spicy meal. But swallowing problems that don’t go away can be a sign of head and neck cancer, and persistent indigestion that can’t be explained can be a sign of a number of cancers, including pancreatic, stomach, and esophageal cancer.
Loss of appetite is also a sign of many different cancers, and Sharp says: “Loss of appetite can happen for many different reasons – talk to your doctor if you notice that you are not as hungry as usual and it is not getting any better.” better.”
9. Hoarse voice, cough or shortness of breath
It’s very common to have a hoarse voice when you’ve had a cold, but the NHS says if you’ve been hoarse for more than three weeks you should see a doctor as it’s a possible sign of throat cancer. Likewise, Sharp says if you have an unexplained cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse within a few weeks, it could be a sign of lung cancer, and if you’re getting more breathless than usual, tell your doctor — while it could just be related to an infection or other heart or lung problems, it could be a sign of cancer.
10. Changes in Toil
Sharp says that if you experience a change in bowel habits, including constipation, passing or defecating more often, having problems passing urine such as having to pass more often or more urgently, experiencing pain when passing urine or not being able to pass when needed, or if there is blood in your pee or poop, see a doctor. While such symptoms can be a sign of colon or bladder cancer, they can easily be something much less serious. Sharp says, “These symptoms can all be caused by conditions other than cancer, but it’s best to get them checked out.”
11. Persistent Mouth Ulcer
While mouth sores are common, especially when you’re exhausted, they usually get better in about two weeks. But Sharp says any ulcer or red or white spot that doesn’t heal after three weeks should be reported to your doctor or dentist.
12. Unusual Breast Changes
It’s not just a lump that can be a symptom of breast cancer — note any changes in the size, shape, or feel of your breast, or skin changes, redness, or pain in the breast. Sharp says fluid — which may have been stained with blood — leaking from the nipple could also be a sign of cancer.
13. Persistent Bloating
Bloating is another symptom that is common and usually not serious. Although Sharp says it’s common to have a bloated or swollen abdomen that comes and goes, if you feel bloated most days, even if it’s occasional, talk to your doctor. Bloating can be a sign of various cancers, but especially of the ovaries.