People ignoring cancer signs

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Experts have warned that people are placing their lives at risk by ignoring cancer warning signs.

A new study undertaken by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has found that more than 50% of Brits have been aware of at least one ‘red flag cancer alarm’ symptom, such as an unexplained lump or a persistent cough, but only 2% considered that it may be cancer.

Cancer survival rates in the UK lag behind the average in Europe and diagnosis delays are thought to be the major problem.

Around 2000 people were interviewed about their health by CRUK in the last few months. They found that 53% had experienced one of the symptoms used by experts as a warning sign of cancer. In excess of one third of the respondents did not obtain medical advice about their symptoms.

A senior research fellow for CRUK, based at University College London, Dr Katriina Whitaker, said British people should stop worrying about wasting their doctor’s time or ‘making a fuss’.

She said a message should be sent that if there are symptoms that are not going away, particularly those that are classified as warning signs, it should not be ignored. Patients should visit their doctor and seek help.

Researchers sent out questionnaires to people aged 50 and over, residing in London. The questionnaire contained 17 symptoms, including 10 possible cancer warning signs, such as bleeding, and unexplained moles, lumps and coughs.

The results of the research have been published in PLOS ONE.

Some of the possible warning signs which were experienced and dismissed included changes to bladder and bowel rhythms, which can be a symptom of bladder or bowel cancer. The most commonly experienced symptom was persistent coughing, which could be a warning sign for lung cancer.

Potential Cancer Symptoms:

• An unexplained cough or hoarseness could be lung cancer
• Persistent unexplained pain could be a sign of several cancers, depending on the location of the pain
• Unexplained bleeding could be several cancers
• Persistent difficulty in swallowing could be throat cancer
• A change in bowel habit over a period of three weeks could signal bowel cancer
• Changes in the appearance of a mole could be linked to skin cancer
• Unexplained weight loss could be related to several types of cancer

Image Credit: Ed Uthman

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