Sunday 17 December 2017

Knowing the early signs of cancer can save your life

Ireland's survival rates for cancer are rising although more of us are being diagnosed with the disease. The most recent report from the National Cancer Registry showed that cancer deaths here are falling.

But the sad reality is that too many people are still either unaware of or not recognising warning signs which, if acted on early, will increase their chances of beating the disease.

A major survey by Cancer Research UK found that as many as one in seven people could not name a symptom of the disease.

This ignorance could be causing 5,000 needless cancer deaths a year in the UK, and although the numbers have not been quantified for Ireland, it is inevitable lives are being unnecessarily lost here also.

Although no similar level study has been carried out here, the Irish Cancer Society confirmed that it has found people's knowledge of warning signs is still not what it should be.

"We find that people think that if a cancer is not in their family, they don't have to worry about any possible signs and don't take action as a result.

"We have found that men's awareness of early warning signs of cancer is poor and often men will know a lot more about their own wife's breast cancer symptoms than about, for instance, prostate cancer symptoms or bowel cancer symptoms relevant to themselves," said spokeswoman Kathleen O'Meara.

People with undiagnosed cancer often experience unexplained weight loss due to physical changes in their body.

The advice is to speak to your doctor if you are not dieting and you lose more than five per cent of your normal weight in one month, or 10pc in six months.

Potential warning signs which need to be checked out include:

  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Unusual swellings or lumps anywhere on the body.
  • Changes in the size, shape or colour of a mole.
  • Ulcers or sores that won't heal.
  • Blood in urine or faeces.
  • Changes in bowel habits that last longer than six weeks.
  • Problems passing urine.
  • A cough or hoarse voice persisting for longer than three weeks.
  • Difficulties swallowing.
  • Heavy night sweats.
  • Unexplained persistent pain lasting longer than four weeks, and for women, unusual changes to the breast, or vaginal bleeding after menopause or between periods.

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