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Cancer: Signs you should never ignore – ‘Thousands risking their lives’, warns NHS chief

GMB: Expert warns of cancer 'whirlwind' in the UK

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Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. The large group of diseases can start in almost any organ of the body when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably. The cancer burden has continued to grow globally over the past decade, however, the widespread disruption caused by COVID-19 has exacerbated concerns that many people will now be diagnosed with more advanced cancer.

According to Cancer Research UK, one in two people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of the disease during their lifetime.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard warned that thousands of people could be risking their lives by delaying seeking medical help.

She said: “It’s incredibly important that people recognise the common symptoms that can signal a cancer diagnosis. It’s vital that they take action by making an appointment with their GP that could ultimately save their life.

“Please don’t delay and come forward to get yourself checked. We would rather see you sooner when any cancer could be easier to treat.”

READ MORE: Cancer: Research shows popular hot drink could reduce skin and liver cancer

Key symptoms There are more than 200 different types of cancer and symptoms vary largely for each kind.According to Cancer Research UK, some key signs of cancer include:

  • Croaky voice, hoarseness or a cough that won’t go away
  • Mouth or tongue ulcer that lasts longer than three weeks
  • Coughing up blood
  • A change in the bowel habit, such as constipation, looser poo or pooing more often.
  • Blood in your poo
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding, including after sex, between periods or after menopause
  • Blood in your pee
  • Problems peeing
  • Breathlessness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent heartburn or indigestion
  • Appetite loss
  • Persistent bloating
  • Very heavy night sweats
  • Appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained pain or ache
  • An unusual lump or swelling anywhere on the body
  • A new mole or changes to a mole
  • A sore that won’t heal

The NHS is encouraging anyone with any of the above signs to visit their GP for a potentially life-saving check-up.

The warning comes as NHS England said that tens of thousands of people may be putting off seeking help because they do not want to add to extra pressure on GP surgeries and hospitals.

Moreover, recent survey results highlighted widespread ignorance of some cancer signs, with nearly two in three people oblivious to the fact that discomfort in the abdomen for three weeks or more is a possible sign of cancer.

Campaigns on television and social media are set to explain which symptoms could be a sign of cancer.

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer, said: “Most symptoms will not be from cancer, but if they are, seeing someone quickly will give you the best chance of diagnosis at an earlier stage when cancers are easiest to treat.

”Figures published in May showed a third fewer cancers were detected at an early stage, when the chances of survival are highest.

The data, collected by Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service, sparked fears that thousands of people have the disease but have not yet started treatment.

While 18,400 people in England had their cancer diagnosed at stage one between March and June 2019, this dropped by 33 percent to 12,400 in the same period last year – a fall of 1,500 people in a month.

Macmillan Cancer Support said the sharp fall could mean some cancers have now progressed to a point where they can no longer be treated, due to delays in diagnosis.

Steven McIntosh, the executive director of advocacy and communications at Macmillan Cancer Support, highlighted the urgency of the matter, saying “we are likely to be dealing with Covid’s long shadow for many years to come”.

He added: “There are major concerns that there may be a shift to later diagnosis as a result of later presentations and longer waits.

“When cancer is diagnosed at a later or more advanced stage, it can be more difficult to treat or may be incurable, which can have a huge impact on a person’s treatment and prognosis.”

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