YOUR chances of surviving cancer are much higher if you catch the disease in its earliest stages.
For some diseases like ovarian cancer, women have a 90 per cent chance of surviving over five years if diagnosed at stage one. That plummets to just 40 per cent by stage two… and 5 per cent by stage four. Getty – Contributor More than 80 per cent of people live for a year after being diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer. Less than 20 per cent survive at stage 4. So early detection is absolutely crucial – which is why we all need to know the early warning symptoms to watch out for.
Often cancers don’t have any symptoms at all or have specific symptoms depending on the cancer’s location.
But according to World Cancer Day (today), there are the 14 general symptoms you can’t afford to ignore: 1. Unusual lumps
Movember Foundation Get familiar with your nuts, by rolling a testicle between your thumb and fingers Movember Foundation Repeat it, with testicle number two Cancerous lumps often tend to be painless so you can’t just wait around for any odd lumps and bumps to start feeling sensitive – as that may not happen.
They may increase in size as the cancer progresses…or it may not.
Either way, get any swellings checked ASAP. 2. Persistent coughing
Is it a chest infection, a cold, or cancer?
Well, infections and viruses do eventually blow themselves out so if you’ve got a cough for a few weeks, you’ve probably just picked up a bug. Getty – Contributor If you’ve had a cough for months on end, get it checked out Chronic coughing, however, is a different game altogether.
Having a cough for months at a time isn’t normal – particularly if it causes you to become breathless or makes your throat so sore that you have difficulty swallowing.
People with lung cancer tend to have a cough that won’t go away (it might be worse at different parts of the day).
That cough may change to become more painful, sound different or bring up coloured mucus of phlegm.
Oesophageal cancer is also defined by a cough that won’t go away (it might be especially noticeable when you try to eat), as well as difficulty swallowing. 3. Changes in poo
Getty – Contributor It might feel uncomfortable talking about poo but you need to know what’s normal for you – and speak up the moment something odd happens Your poo can offer massive clues as to what’s going on inside your body.
Watch out for constipation and diarrhoea. They are two common changes that could be indicative of loads of non-cancerous issues but they can also be linked to diseases like bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer symptoms can include changes to normal bowel habits, including looser poo, pooing more often or not constipation.
Another biggie to watch out for is any change in the colour of your poo – especially if it starts looking like tar or obviously bloody. Again, bloody poo is a red-flag sign of bowel cancer. 4. Needing to pee more frequently
Getty – Contributor Suddenly needing to pee or peeing more than usual can be signs of prostate cancer You might need to pee more often if you have something like diabetes , a kidney infection or a UTI.
But it can also be one of the main symptoms of prostate cancer.
Early prostate cancer , unfortunately, often has no symptoms at all but when they do present, one of the first tends to be peeing more than usual, getting up in the night to wee, needing to pee urgently and having difficulty in passing urine.
You may even find that you sometimes leak a little bit after peeing. 5. Unexpected bleeding from your bum, vagina or penis
Getty – Contributor Seemingly random bleeding could be a sign of cervical cancer Outside of your period, bleeding from your vagina isn’t normal.
If you experience spotting in between periods/postmenopause, or if you bleed after or during sex, make an appointment with your GP immediately.
Vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom of cervical and vaginal cancers.
Same with anal passages and penises – neither should bleed and if they do, they could be signs of bowel or penile cancer. 6. Unexplained weight loss
Getty – Contributor Unexplained weight loss isn’t a reason for celebration – quite the reverse If you haven’t been actively trying to lose weight and find that a couple of stone have suddenly fallen off, that’s not a good sign.
Losing weight when you are not trying to is a very common symptom in people with cancer. It may be one of the reasons you first go to the doctor.
An unexplained weight loss of 10lbs or more may be the first sign of cancer.
This happens most often with cancers of the pancreas , stomach, oesophagus (swallowing tube), or lung.
Weight loss rates depend on the cancer type, with around 60 per cent of people living with lung cancer having lost a significant amount of weight by the time they’re actually diagnosed with the illness.
In people with stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer or oesophageal cancer that’s more like 80 per cent.
Cancer Research UK says: "If you are not dieting and you lose more than 5 per cent of your normal weight in one month or 10 per cent in six months, your doctor will want to find out the cause.
"For example, if you normally weigh 10 stone (63.5 kg) and lose half a stone (3kg) in a month, or a stone (6kg) in six months that would need investigating.
"This may not seem like a lot of weight, but if you continue to lose weight at this rate, it could become a serious problem."
People with breast cancer or prostate cancer don’t tend to have lost weight at diagnosis. 7. Feeling less hungry than usual
Getty – Contributor Feeling a lot less hungry than usual could be a sign of metabolic changes or pressure from tumours Feeling less hungry than usual kind of goes hand-in-hand with weight loss.
If you normally eat three meals a day plus the odd snack and then suddenly find yourself unable to face having a piece of toast, something is up.
We’re not just talking about feeling less hungry for a couple of days (that could be down to something as minor as a bug) but over a prolonged period.Appetite loss could be caused by multiple things, including changes in metabolism, a cancer inside the abdomen causing swelling, or an enlarged liver pushing on the stomach increasing the feeling of fullness. 8. Fatigue Getty – Contributor Feeling a bit tired in the mornings is normal but extreme fatigue needs investigating Who isn’t tired these days? But there’s a difference between being a bit sleep deprived and having a complete lack of energy.Extreme tiredness could be a sign of any number of chronic illness like chronic fatigue syndrome/ME but cancer fatigue is also a thing."Fatigue for people with cancer might not go away even when you rest," says Cancer Research UK ."It can go on for weeks, months or even years after you finish treatment. This is called chronic fatigue, which means long-lasting."Most people get back to their normal energy levels from between 6 months to a year after the end of cancer treatment. But it can take longer."World Cancer Day says that if a person’s fatigue is being caused by their cancer (rather than their treatment), they tend to also have other symptoms. 9. New or changing moles Getty – Contributor If one of your moles feels like it’s changed, get a GP to take a look We know that moles have some relation to skin cancer but many of us have no idea what we’re really looking out for.You might not necessarily get a massive growth appearing which looks "obviously" cancerous.You need to be on the lookout for any new moles or any changes in the size, shape or colour of existing ones.If they become crusty, bloody or seem to ooze any liquid, they also need to be checked out. 10. A wound, spot or mouth ulcer that won’t heal Alamy If you’ve got a mouth ulcer that won’t go away even after smothering it in Bonjela, get a doctor to look at it You can develop skin cancer without having any issues with moles.Ulcers that don’t health within four weeks or a spot or core that doesn’t clear up within a month are also potential symptoms.Mouth ulcers that don’t go away can be a symptom of oral cancer – particularly if they appear on the tongue. 11. Unexplained or chronic pain Getty – Contributor Back pain is one thing, chronic joint pain is another Aching for a few days after the gym is totally normal…as is having sore knees if you fall down.But having pain that you can’t account for is something that you should get checked for.It doesn’t necessarily have to mean cancer; fibromyalgia or back pain are chronic conditions but not necessarily life-threatening.A common symptom of blood cancers, however, is bruising and joint pain. […]
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