SHOCKING statistics this week revealed that 2,300 new cancer cases could be going undetected each week in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Medics say this could be because individuals are wary of visiting their GP or attending hospital in case they are exposed to the virus – or that they may not want to burden the NHS.
However, doctors are urging people not to ignore the early cancer warning signs during lockdown – and to look out for any key symptoms.
Leading oncologist Professor Karol Sikora today warned: “I’m afraid that thousands of people are today living with symptoms of a disease which will eventually kill them.”
With this in mind, we take you through the ten early warning signs of cancer everyone should look out for – even in lockdown…
1. Unexplained weight loss
It’s always nice to notice the pounds dropping off, but be warned – drop too fast and there could be something nasty going on.
The key here is “unexplained” weight loss – a disappearing beer belly for seemingly no reason.
If you haven’t been trying to trim down during lockdown but have, that’s when the alarm bells should start to ring.
Losing more than 10lbs without trying could be one of the first signs of cancers of the pancreas, stomach, oesophagus, or lungs.
Cancer Research UK states: “If you normally weigh ten stone and lose half a stone in a month, or a stone in six months, that would need investigating.”
2. Unusual swellings or lumps
Persistent lumps or swelling in any part of your body should be taken seriously.
That includes any lumps in the neck, armpit, stomach, groin, chest, breast or testicle.
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If you notice a lump, heaviness or thickness it could be a warning sign of cancer.
3. Cough, cough
A persistent cough is not just a sign of Covid-19 – it could also be a symptom of cancer, especially if it doesn’t disappear after three or four weeks.
If you’re also short of breath and coughing up phlegm with signs of blood, it could be a sign of lung cancer.
Chances are, if you’re a non-smoker especially, it won’t be anything to worry about.
But 43,500 Brits are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, so it’s best to check and be on the safe side.
4. Mole changes
We all know moles can be a sign of skin cancer, but lots of us have no clue of the changes to watch out for.
You need to be on the lookout for any new moles or any changes in the size, shape or colour of existing ones.
How to spot skin cancer
Doctors recommend people use the simple “ABCDE” rule to spot whether your mole could be dangerous.
- A – asymmetry – the two halves of the area may differ in shape or colour
- B – border – the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches
- C – colour – this may be uneven. Several different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen
- D – diameter – most melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter. Report any change in size, shape or diameter to your doctor
- E – evolution – if you see progressive changes in size, shape or colour over weeks or a few months, you must seek expert help
If they become crusty, bloody or seem to ooze any liquid, they also need to be checked out.
In particular, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK – killing seven Brits every day.
5. Blood in your poo or pee
Blood in your number ones or twos is a reason to get in touch with your GP.
Blood in your poo is one of the red-flag warning signs of bowel cancer – the second deadliest cancer in the UK.
That combined with a change in your toilet habits – going more often than normal, suffering more constipation, and anything else out of the ordinary for you, should kick you in gear to get checked out.
If you spot blood in your pee, it could be a sign of bladder or kidney cancer.
Chances are it’s something far less sinister like haemorrhoids or a UTI, but it’s not worth running the risk – get checked.
6. Pee problems
Dribbling, leaking, a desperate urge or waking up busting in the night.
Pain when you pee and struggling to pee even when you want to. All should ring alarm bells.
It will likely be something harmless, but everyone should contain their GP if they noticed any changes along these lines.
In men, an enlarged prostate could be the cause – and that can mean prostate cancer.
Other signs of the disease, which kills more than 10,000 Brits a year, include lower back pain, pain in the rectum, hips or pelvis.
Women should also look out for unexplained vaginal bleeding or ‘spotting’ between periods, after sex or after the menopause.
7. Unexplained pain
Pain is one way our bodies tell us that something is wrong.
As we get older, it‘s more common to experience aches and pains.
However, if you have pain lasting longer than four weeks, unexplained pain, or pain that comes and goes – this is a key red-flag warning sign.
According to Cancer Research, most cancer pain is caused by the tumour pressing on bones, nerves or other organs in the body.
It is extremely important for your doctor to find out the type and cause of your pain. Then they can treat it in the right way.
We’ve all been there after a big meal, a searing pain in our chest.
It’s not a heart attack, but heartburn or indigestion.
But if you notice it doesn’t go away and you’re regularly suffering bouts of painful heartburn it’s important to get checked out.
It can be a sign of stomach or throat cancer.
9. Difficulties swallowing
If you feel as though food constantly keeps getting stuck when you’re eating and it’s sometimes uncomfortable or painful to swallow – you should get in touch with your GP.
In particular, it is the most common symptom of oesophageal cancer.
The cancer can narrow the oesophagus, making it difficult for food to pass down.
You may have to chew your food more thoroughly, or only be able to eat soft foods.
10. Heavy night sweats
When you wake up in the middle of the night sweating it’s normally down to wearing too many bedclothes or having your radiator cranked up.
However, if you find yourself sweating excessively or having severe hot flashes at night alarm bells should ring.
Night sweats are an early symptom of a host of different cancers.
The most common type of cancer associated with night sweats is lymphoma.
This is a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system – a network of vessels and glands spread throughout your body.
The lymphatic system is part of your immune system.
What should you do?
If you spot any of these signs or changes, first things first… don’t panic.
In many cases there will be another, much less scary explanation.
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But, don’t delay either. If you notice a change or are worried about something get in touch with your GP over the phone, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
A spokesperson for the NHS said: “NHS staff are working around the clock to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, while at the same time ensuring that essential and urgent cancer diagnosis, treatment and care can continue.
“If you have a cancer symptom, you should still contact your GP and be referred for further checks as normal.”