WE'RE often told that catching cancer in its early stages can hugely increase chances of recovery and even survival.
Despite this, new research has found half of UK adults with possible symptoms of the illness don’t contact their GP within the first six month of feeling ill.
A YouGov survey of 2,468 people found just 48 per cent of those who’d experienced a “red flag” symptom, such as unexplained weight loss and a new or unusual lump, contacted their GP within half a year.
Michelle Mitchell, CRUK chief executive said that spotting cancer early was "vital" if more people are to survive.
"The first step in that process is getting help for a possible cancer symptom," she explained.
But what are the red flag symptoms you should be looking out for?
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1. Unexplained pain
It's normal to experience more pain the older we get.
However, unexplained pain can be a sign that something more serious might be going on.
2. Very heavy night sweats
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Overheating and sweating at night can be caused by infections or it can be a side effect of certain medications.
It’s also often experienced by women around the time of the menopause.
But very heavy, drenching night sweats can also be a sign of Leukemia-related cancers.
3. Unexplained weight loss
Small weight changes over time are quite normal, but if you lose a noticeable amount of weight without trying to its worth telling your doctor.
According to the American Cancer Society, unexplained weight loss is often the first noticeable symptom of cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, stomach, and lung.
4. Unusual lump or swelling
Persistent lumps or swelling on any part of the body should always be checked out by a medical expert.
That includes any lumps in the neck, armpit, stomach, groin, chest, breast or testicle.
Feeling tired is fairly normal and can be caused by stress, not eating enough or simply not getting enough sleep.
However, if you’re feeling tired for no clear reason, it could be a sign that something is wrong – speak to your doctor.
Fatigue may be a symptom of blood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
This is because these cancers start in the bone marrow, which produces red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.
6. Skin changes
When a spot, wart or sore doesn’t heal, even if it’s painless, a doctor needs to check it.
Similarly, you should also be aware of any new moles or existing moles that change in size, shape or colour, become crusty, itch, hurt, bleed or ooze.
Any unusual change in a patch of skin or a nail, whether it’s a new change or has been there for a while, should be checked out by your doctor.
7. Difficulty swallowing
It's worth seeing your doctor if you are having difficulty swallowing and this isn't related to another illness you already have.
Difficulty swallowing may be a symptom of esophageal cancer.
8. Digestive issues
These include painful heartburn, persistent appetite loss or bloating (even if it comes and goes, talk to your doctor).
Digestive issues can be an early symptom of gastric cancer.
9. Croaky voice, persistent cough or breathlessness
Having a croaky voice that hasn’t gone away on its own should be checked out.
As should a unexplained cough doesn’t go away in a few weeks.
It’s not unusual to feel out of breath every now and then. But if you notice that you’re feeling breathless more than usual or for a lot of the time, tell your doctor.
If you have a hoarse voice for more than 3 weeks, it could be a sign of cancer of the larynx, according to the NHS website.
10. Changes in your poo or pee
A change in bowel habits can include constipation, looser poo or pooing more often can also be a sign of something more serious.
Problems peeing might be needing to go more often or urgently, experiencing pain when peeing, or not being able to go when you need to.
11. Unexplained bleeding or blood
Unexplained bleeding can often be caused by something far less serious than cancer, but you should always report it to your doctor.
This includes blood in your poo or pee, and vomiting or coughing up blood – no matter how much or what colour (it could be red, or a darker colour like brown or black).
It also includes any unexplained vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex or after the menopause.
12. Mouth ulcer or patch that won’t heal
It’s common to get ulcers (small sores) in the mouth when you’re a bit run down. These usually get better in about two weeks.
But an ulcer or red or white patch that doesn’t heal after 3 weeks should be reported to your doctor or dentist.
13. Unusual breast changes
Lumps, change in the size, shape or feel of a breast, or any skin changes, redness, or pain in the breast are all worth getting checked out.
Nipple changes, including fluid, which could be blood stained, leaking from the nipple if you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding are also worth keeping an eye on.
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It's not always easy talking about cancer, but a conversation with your GP could very possibly save your life.
If you are displaying any of these "red flag" symptoms its very important that you go and get checked out by your family doctor.
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