Cancer is too often a taboo subject. We don’t really like to talk about it or admit it’s something we’re afraid of.
Sometimes we may think that if we ignore it, it will go away.
What is it that we’re frightened of? A diagnosis? The treatment? Dying? Losing someone we love? Family history?
In 2014, 356,860* people in the UK were diagnosed with cancer so maybe we are right to be scared! But before falling into a pit of hopelessness and despair it may be helpful to look at some of the facts and figures behind cancer because it may not be as bad as you think.
cancer is caused by normal cells in the body changing, making them grow in an uncontrolled way. There are over 200 different types of cells in the body which means there are over 200 different types of cancer
the four most common type of cancer are breast, prostate, lung and bowel
around 90% of cancers are in people over the age of 50
a primary cancer is where it started. When some of the cancer cells break away and settles elsewhere in the body, this forms a secondary cancer
cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was. The chances of surviving cancer are twice what they were 40 years ago. The survival rate also improves with an early diagnosis. For example, over 95% of patients diagnosed with the earliest stage of bowel cancer survive for at least 5 years, compared with less than 8% of patients with advanced disease.
Prevention is better than cure
Taking advantage of the screening programs that are available is something everyone can do to help with early detection of changes in cells that may develop into cancer if left untreated.
You don’t need to wait for a screening invitation. If you notice any abnormal changes in your body or you are worried you may have some of the symptoms associated with cancer book an appointment with your GP. Five minutes spent with your GP can save you weeks of worry.
Another thing we can do is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Things like taking exercise that gets us out of breath five times a week, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, having two or three alcohol free days a week and eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables all promote positive wellbeing.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle not only helps reduce or risk of cancer it also helps to prevent many long term conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Too shy to be screened
There are currently three effective screening programs in the UK that you may be invited to take part in depending on your age and gender. Sometimes we miss out on these opportunities because we are scared, shy or short of time. These screening tests may feel a little uncomfortable but they are over with very quickly.
If you are unsure what will happen during your screening appointment you can visit the Cancer Research UK website for full details of what to expect.
They have also produced a short video to help people when completing the home bowel cancer screening kit.
Investing a few minutes in a screening test can help to prevent many months of treatment, so don’t ignore that invitation when it comes. Be bold and take the time to attend your screening appointment and stand up to cancer!
If the worst happens
Sometimes we may have visited our GP because of a change in our bodies or we have had a screening test shows changes that could develop into cancer. Whilst this can be very alarming you can be reassured that your doctor will respond rapidly, usually within two weeks, to ensure you receive the most appropriate treatment and gain the best possible outcome.
Research into cancer and it’s treatment is a constantly evolving area producing more effective solutions all the time. The Christies, local to the Trafford area, is one of Europe’s leading cancer research and treatment centres so if you are referred there you can be reassured of some of the best treatments available. You can find out more about them and the research they are doing on their website.
Whatever happens, there is always help at hand so don’t be too scared to talk.
*statistics taken from Cancer Research UK