We all know that the earlier cancer is detected, the better the chance of survival. Yet new research has found half of UK adults with a possible cancer symptom don’t contact their GP within six months.
A YouGov poll of 2,468 people for Cancer Research UK (CRUK cancerresearchuk.org) found just 48% of those who’d experienced a red flag symptom, such as unexplained weight loss and a new or unusual lump, contacted their GP within half a year.
“You might think of red flag symptoms like coughing up blood or unexplained bleeding as hard to ignore, but this research shows that many do,” says Dr Julie Sharp, CRUK’s head of health and patient involvement.
She points out that people from deprived backgrounds in particular face more barriers to seeking help, and stresses: “Whether it’s a red flag symptom or not, if you notice a change to your health that’s unusual for you or isn’t going away, contact your GP as soon as you can. Your doctor is there for you and wants to hear about any concerns.”
Not telling a doctor about unusual health changes may reduce the chances of an early cancer diagnosis. When diagnosed at stage one – the earliest stage – more than nine in 10 (92%) people will survive bowel cancer for five years or more. It’s one in 10 (10%) when diagnosed at stage four – the latest stage.
Sharp says anyone who has any of the following symptoms should have them checked by a doctor immediately. She stresses that in most cases it won’t be cancer, but if it is, spotting it early can make a real difference and possibly save your life.
1. Unexplained pain
Pain is a sign that something’s wrong, and while it’s easy to just hope it’ll go 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,” says Sharp. “But unexplained pain could be a sign of something more serious.”
2. Heavy night sweats
Sharp says there are many reasons you might sweat at night, including infections, certain medications, or going through the menopause. However, very heavy, drenching night sweats can also be a sign of several cancers, including leukaemia and lymphoma.
3. Unexplained weight loss
There are, of course, many reasons for unexplained weight loss other than cancer, including gut 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 to, you should tell your doctor.
4. Unusual lumps or swelling
Lumps are one of the most well-known cancer symptoms, and while they can be caused by many less serious issues like an injury, Sharp stresses that persistent lumps or swelling in any part of the body, including the neck, armpit, stomach, groin, chest, breast or testicle, should be taken seriously.
Tiredness can, of course, be caused by many things, including stress, auto-immune problems, or simply having trouble sleeping. “But if you’re feeling tired for no clear reason, it could be a sign that something is wrong,” says Sharp.
6. Unexplained bleeding
Unexplained bleeding in poo, wee or vomit, coughing up blood, or any unexplained vaginal bleeding between…
Read More News: 13 red flag cancer symptoms to absolutely get checked out