WORLD CANCER DAY – Red flag symptoms

4th February is World Cancer Day #WorldCancerDay

Cancer is responsible for 1 in 6 deaths worldwide, and kills more than 8.8 million people every year. It remains the single biggest cause of premature death (under 75s) in the UK. It has a profound impact throughout society. Detection and treatment is improving, but we still have a long way to go.


Cancer presents in many different ways and at different stages, but here are some things to look out for:

  • Weight loss: Significant, unexplained weight loss (i.e. you haven’t been trying to lose weight)
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite and pale skin
  • Lumps and bumps: Know your body. Is is important if you know what is normal for you, and so notice any new or changes in existing lumps and bumps. Lumps in the breast, +/- nipple discharge, and changes in the skin may be worrying signs. Men should also check their testicles regularly.
  • Moles – keep an eye on them so that you notice any changes – the most worrying signs are if they are an irregular shape, mixed colours, bigger than 7mm or if they are itchy, crusting or bleeding.
  • Blood in sputum (phlegm), stools, urine or between periods should be investigated
  • Cough which is persistent for more than 3 weeks.
  • Bowel habit: blood, diarrhoea or constipation with no obvious reason, pain in your stomach or back passage, persistent bloating, the feeling or not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet.
  • Headaches: Unexplained headaches, headaches on waking, with nausea, abnormal sensations or weakness in the limbs, changes in vision.
  • Just because you have one of the symptoms does not mean that you definitely have cancer, but it is important that the causes of these symptoms are checked. It is important to be self-aware of what your body is normally like, so that you are aware of any differences. If you notice these changes, or are worried about other symptoms, you should contact your GP.


It is thought that up to 50% of cancers are preventable.

Things that you can do to reduce your risk:

1. Don’t smoke or use tobacco

  • Make your home smoke-free.

2. Enjoy a healthy varied diet

3. Be careful with your sun exposure:

  • Think about how much time you spend in the sun (including sun beds)
  • Use sun protection

4. Keep active and do regular exercise (this includes walking!)

5. Think about your impact to pollution

6. Reduce alcohol intake

  • 14 units a week for men and women (equivalent to 6 pints of beer a week)

7. Ensure your children are vaccinated

  • The HPV vaccine programme is recommended in teenage girls
  • Hepatitis B (newborns)

8. In the workplace protect yourself from cancer-causing substances by following health & safety instructions.

  • Asbestos exposure
  • Reduce radiation exposure

9. Women:

  • Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s cancer risk
  • Limit use of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), as it can increase your risk for certain cancers.

10. And don’t forget to take part in screening programmes available to you.

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