8 Tips For Checking Your Body for Signs of Cancer

According to the results of the CONCORD-3 study published in the Lancet1, overall cancer survival rates in the UK are improving thanks to better cancer management2. But what can we do individually to impact the statistics? According to the Office for National Statistics, cancer survival rates are much higher if the cancer is detected early on3 and one of the best ways to detect cancer early is to know our own bodies.

That’s why, in this guide, we’re taking a look at how to check yourself from top to toe thanks to advice from some of the UK’s leading cancer charities and health institutions. The information we have gathered acts purely as a guideline – if you are at all concerned, please speak to your GP.

1. Head

According to the Brain Tumour Charity, almost 11,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumour every year. It describes the following symptoms as possible indicators:

  • • Headaches
  • • Changes in vision
  • • Seizures
  • • Nausea
  • • Drowsiness
  • • Impairment of normal brain function.

For more information visit the Brain Tumour Charity

2. Mouth

Dental check-ups have changed over the decades and you may have noticed your dentist spending more time checking your tongue, cheeks and the roof of your mouth. This is because mouth cancer can appear in a number of places. Here are the three signs that the Oral Health Foundation classify as a reason to speak to your doctor.

  • • Mouth ulcers which do not heal in three weeks
  • • Red and white patches in the mouth
  • • Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck area.

For more detailed information, visit the Oral Health Foundation

3. Breasts

Breast cancer is predicted to affect around 1 in 8 women and 1 in 870 men throughout their lifetime4. Here’s what you should look out for:

  • • Changes in size or shape
  • • A lump or area that feels thicker than the rest of the breast
  • • Changes in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling
  • • Redness or rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
  • • Your nipple becomes pulled in or looks different
  • • Liquid that comes from the nipple without squeezing
  • • Pain in your breast or armpit that’s there all or almost all of the time
  • • Swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone.

For more information, visit Breast Cancer Care

4. Bowel

Bowel cancer is also called colorectal cancer and is the fourth most common cancer in the UK5. Here’s Bowel Cancer UK’s advice on what to look out for:

  • • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
  • • Unexplained weight loss
  • • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • • A pain or lump in your tummy.

For more information, visit Bowel Cancer UK

5. Prostate

Following disclosures from celebrities including Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull about their prostate cancer diagnoses, men are being urged not to avoid visiting the doctor for fear of embarrassment. Here are six symptoms that could be signs that you need to have your prostate checked:

  • • Difficulty starting to urinate or emptying your bladder
  • • A weak flow when you urinate
  • • Feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
  • • Dribbling urine after you finish urinating
  • • Needing to urinate more often, especially at night
  • • A sudden urge to urinate – you may sometimes leak before you get to the toilet.

For more information, visit: Prostate Cancer UK

6. Testicular

Testicular cancer is considered one of the ‘less common’ cancers, typically affecting men aged between 15 and 49 years of age. That said, this is not a reason not to speak to your GP if you notice any of the following:

  • • A painless swelling or lump in one of the testicles
  • • Change in shape or texture of the testicles
  • • An increase in the firmness of a testicle
  • • A difference between one testicle and the other
  • • A dull ache or sharp pain in your testicles or scrotum, which may come and go
  • • A feeling of heaviness in your scrotum.

For more advice on testicular cancer you can refer to the NHS website

7. Ovarian

Ovarian cancer occurs most commonly in women aged between 40 and 60 and can be caused by a number of factors. Guidance from Ovarian Cancer Action recommends that all women should be aware of the following symptoms:

  • • Persistent stomach pain
  • • Persistent bloating
  • • Difficulty eating/feeling full more quickly
  • • Needing to urinate more frequently.

More information can be found here: Ovarian Cancer Action

8. Cervical

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, around 3,200 women are diagnosed each year with cervical cancer in the UK. It affects women of all ages, therefore it’s vital to be aware of the following symptoms:

  • • Heavier periods than you normally have
  • • Bleeding between periods
  • • Vaginal bleeding after sex
  • • Bleeding after the menopause.

Other symptoms can include:

  • • Smelly vaginal discharge
  • • Urine infections that keep coming back
  • • Pain in the lower tummy or back.

More information and guidance can be found here: Macmillan Cancer Support

9. Skin

Our skin is our biggest organ – a fact that is often taken for granted. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK6, but the good news is that most skin cancers can be cured if detected early.

The British Skin Foundation recommends checking your skin once a month for marks or moles that are changing or new. Here’s what you should look out for:

“In particular look out for growing size, changing shape, developing new colours, bleeding, pain, crusting, red around the edges or itching. About once a month, check your skin for moles or marks that are changing or new.” It recommends using the following ‘A,B,C,D’ checklist:

Asymmetry – the two halves of the area differ in their shape.

Border – the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches.

Colour – this may be uneven. Different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen.

Diameter – most melanomas are at least 6 mm in diameter.

The Foundation further recommends watching out for:

  • • A scab or sore that will not heal.
  • • A scaly or crusty patch of skin that is red or inflamed.
  • • A flesh coloured bump that won’t go away and grows in size.
  • • A volcano-like growth with a rim and a central crater.

For further information and advice, visit: British Skin Foundation

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At Helpd, we provide a dedicated online introductory service that puts you in control of care – including caring for people living with cancer. To find out more, visit www.helpd.co.uk

If you enjoyed this blog, please read another:  Guide to Sensitive dementia care

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Sources:

  1. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)33326-3/fulltext
  2. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer#heading-Zero
  3. https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/about-bowel-cancer/bowel-cancer/
  4. https://www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk/what-is-skin-cancer