Great Britain

Check the common signs of cancer to give yourself and your family an MOT

FINDING and treating cancer early saves lives – fact.

But as coronavirus continues to put pressure on the NHS, there are fears that those with symptoms are putting off a visit to their GP, with 3 million missed screenings and 350,000 fewer suspected cancer referrals than usual after the first wave.

“Cancer has many different symptoms, depending on the type and the age of the patient,” explains This Morning GP Dr Sara Kayat.

“If you are experiencing any of the symptoms in this feature and they can’t be attributed to something else, see your doctor. A lot of people have been reluctant to seek help because they are worried surgeries are overwhelmed or closed, or fear they will catch Covid if they go in.

“But it’s very important to talk to your GP – they will speak to you on the phone and if you need to be seen, you will be. The NHS is still open.” 

Here, Dr Kayat reveals how to give yourself and your family a cancer MOT.

CHILDREN 

“Fortunately, childhood cancer is not common and accounts for less than 1% of all cancers in the UK.

“If your child has any symptoms, the likelihood of cancer is low – but, of course, you should still be wary and seek help if you’re worried.”

Unexplained fatigue

“Some of the most common childhood cancers are lymphoma, and bone marrow and blood cancers such as leukaemia.

“Often, the first signs are increased fatigue and looking pale, with dark circles. Some children also experience weight loss and low appetite. If your child displays these symptoms, speak to your GP.

“Trust your instincts – nobody knows your child better than you do.” 

Lumps and bumps

“Lymph cancers like lymphoma can cause raised lymph nodes: a small bump around the neck, groin or armpits.

“If you notice a lump on your child that doesn’t go away after around three weeks – and it’s not explained by something like a sore throat – speak to your doctor.”

Blurred vision

“Brain tumours are the second most-common cancer in children and often manifest as visual disturbances or seizures. They can cause unrelenting headaches that wake the child at night.

“If a tumour is pressing on the optic nerve, it affects vision – if you suspect your child is having sight issues, an optician could be your best first port of call. They would usually spot anything serious and suggest a referral.”

 25-40 

“Cancer is rare before 40, but you still need to be wary.

“More than 3,000 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer and around 2,300 men with testicular cancer. You should also watch out for these symptoms in your 40s, 50s and beyond.”

Unusual bleeding

“One of the most common symptoms of cervical cancer is abnormal bleeding: a change in your period or unexplained bleeding between periods or after sex.”

Bloating

“Ovarian cancer is most common in women over 50, but cases are rising among younger women, with one in five now diagnosed at a younger age. It often causes persistent bloating, appetite loss, indigestion and weight changes.”

Breast lumps 

“Breast cancer is more common in over-50s, but it does occur in younger women, so start checking your breasts in your 20s, especially if you have a genetic predisposition such as gene mutation BRCA1 or BRAC2. Watch out for lumps or bumps, any changes to the shape or size and any skin changes.

“Sign up for CoppaFeel!’s monthly text reminders at Coppafeel.org/remind-me. That way, it becomes routine and you get to know what’s normal for you.”

Testicular lumps 

“Testicular cancer is the most common cancer to affect men aged 15 to 49. Men should watch for any change in the shape or size of their testicles, as well as any lumps. A dull ache or pressure in the groin, abdomen or lower back can also be a sign.”

40-75 

“Adults aged 50 to 75 account for over half of all new cancer cases in the UK. Some of the most common types are breast, bowel and skin cancers.”

Mole changes

“Skin cancer is more common as you get older, with most cases in the over-65s, due to more exposure to UV rays over time. But cases in men have gone up fivefold, and the number of cases in women has risen 250%, driven by increases in those 35 and over, so check your moles regularly. Be especially wary if you have a history of tanning or sunbed use. I like to use the ABCDE rule:

Toilet habits

“Around 110 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each day in the UK, with your risk rising steeply from the age of 50. Look for changes in the consistency of your stools, especially looser and more frequent poos. Blood in stools is a warning sign, as is unexplained weight or appetite loss.”

Trouble breathing

“Shortness of breath or coughing up blood could be a sign of lung cancer (especially if you have a history of smoking), with rates rising among the 40-49 age group. Other symptoms include a chest infection that doesn’t improve with antibiotics or keeps coming back, and a hoarse voice.”

Neck lumps

“Head and neck cancers are most common in people over 70, with more than 12,000 cases every year, especially in those who smoke and drink. Look out for a lump in the neck, difficulty swallowing, a croaky voice, and mouth or tongue ulcers that don’t go away. If you’ve had one for three weeks or longer, speak to your GP.”

OVER-75s 

“Cancer risk is highest in the over-75s, though you should be checking for symptoms from age 50 onwards. Many types of cancer are also more common in the elderly, with around 36% of cancer diagnoses in people aged 75 or over.”

Pee changes

“Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, with 129 diagnosed a day in the UK. They could experience a change in urinary flow or a dribble at the end. Some urinate more frequently, especially at night.” 

Weight loss

”More than 13,000 people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma every year, and a third are over 75 (it affects slightly more men than women). The main symptoms are unexplained weight loss, night sweats and enlarged lymph nodes.”

Get more

Dr Chris Steele on how to spot the signs of lung cancer early and cure the disease

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