What is cancer?
Most cancers begin within the cells of our body, this maybe a group or just one. Healthy cells usually give signals that control how cells divide, if the signals are not there or faulty, cells start to multiply and grow, causing what’s known as a lump or tumour. Some are called a primary tumour where cancer usually starts, some may be in the bone marrow or blood (leukaemia). Our genes are what controls how often our cells divide, a mutation (when a gene has been lost, damaged, or copied to much) happens when a cell is missing the instructions and can change six different times before it becomes a cancer cell.
Signs and Symptoms to look out for in cancer
If you’ve had a cough for three weeks or more, chest pain or even shortness of breath, speak to your GP for more advice.
- If for the last few weeks you’ve had pain in your stomach or back passage, blood in your poo, constipation or diarrhoea, feeling you’ve not emptied your bowels. Feeling bloated for 3 weeks or more. Speak to your GP.
- A lump that’s getting bigger anywhere on the body. Speak to your GP.
- Losing weight unexpectedly that is not down to diet or exercise. Speak to your GP.
- Noticing blood in your urine, blood in your vomit or when you cough, bleeding between periods or blood from you bottom. Speak to your GP.
- If you notice persistent bloating. Speak to your GP.
- Blood in pee or poo. Speak to your GP.
- A cough for 3 weeks or more. Speak to your GP.
- A lump. Speak to your GP.
It’s best to speak to a GP, finding it early may mean it’s easier to treat. A referral will then be made to a specialist if your GP thinks it may be cancer.
- If you have any moles that have changed shape or look uneven
- Get larger or more raised from the skin
- Are starting to itch, flake, bleed or crust
- Have two or more colours and changes colour or gets darker
Processes inside a cell, by chance, our inherited genes or even chemicals from smoking can make people more susceptible to cancer. Over time damage in mutated cells builds up, and usually less prone to repairing the damaged genes within the cells.
The UK has three main programmes for screening cancer:
- Bowel screening
- Breast screening
- Cervical screening
Men over 50 can ask their GP about prostate cancer as the current PSA test is not as reliable. Screening can detect and prevent cancers in the early stages so it’s important to go if you’re having any symptoms or are invited to be screened.
Treatments for cancer
There are a variety of different treatment pathways if you are diagnosed with cancer
- Surgery – removing tissue from the body to diagnose, reduce your risk or treat the cancer
- Chemotherapy – drugs used to kill the cancer cells, you may have one or combination in addition to other treatments
- Radiotherapy – the use of x-rays to treat the cancer, reduce the chance of it coming back, nearly 50% out of 100 will also have radiotherapy combined with other treatments
- Cancer drugs – tablets,liquids,lozenges, suppositories, skin patches, injection and drips
- Hormone therapy – lowers the amount of natural hormones in our body and slows/stops the growth of cancer
- Stem cell/bone marrow transplant – cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma may use this treatment in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy
- Immunotherapy – helps our bodies to fight cancer cells and recognise them.
There are also other treatment such as Bisphosphonates, laser treatment, cryotherapy, alternative medicine and palliative treatment.
Please ask your GP for further advice and information.
Contacting your GP
Your GP can be reached through their website, by phone or by the NHS App