Knowing the signs of the Big C could save your life
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Look out for the early symptoms of cancer as early intervention does make a difference, says sportsman and ex city footballer Darren Eadie
This has been the most difficult subject to cover for me throughout the whole of the Menkind programme. Cancer. It's a frightening word and not a word people want to hear. It strikes fear into most people, including me, and rightly so.
There are more than 200 different types of cancers. Breast, lung, bowel and prostate cancers are the most common in the UK accounting for more than half of new cases of cancers each year.
Cancer is actually the biggest killer in over 75-year-olds. In fact 69% of men surveyed said they had lost somebody close to them because of cancer, compared to just 10% of men who said they knew somebody who had died of a heart attack or lung disease
However, the good news is that cancer survival rates are increasing – the earlier it gets diagnosed the easier it is to treat. That's why it's so important that any symptoms are spotted early and that screening, which can identify cancer before you have any symptoms, should be taken up if offered.
For me personally having lost my mum this time last year to a brain haemorrhage, it has kind of put all those illnesses into perspective. Cancer has touched my own family personally. Five years before that she had breast cancer, which she had treatment for and fully recovered.
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You never know when things are going to happen – it came out of the blue and she was a very healthy lady. When something like that happens it's devastating for the whole family. That's why early intervention is so very important.
My dad is a smoker, he's smoked 40 cigarettes a day for as long as I can remember so I guess there was always a high risk he might get cancer.
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Only recently he found out that he had pre-cancerous cells in his mouth at a routine dental check. Just a couple of weeks ago he was in hospital having part of his tongue cut away to remove the cells. He'll have to have regular check ups now but fingers crossed he's going to be ok.
So having lost my mum last year and with my dad now dealing with a cancer issue, it puts things into perspective. All I would say to people reading this is that make sure that you go and get yourself checked out on a regular basis and take up the screening when offered as some cancers might not have early symptoms.
The kind of symptoms you can spot are things like:
- a cough that doesn't clear up,
- an unusual lump anywhere on your body
- blood in your urine or your faeces
- a sore or ulcer that doesn't clear up
- unexplained excessive weight loss – we all think it's a good thing to lose weight but if it happens over a short period of time and you're not expecting it you should definitely get yourself checked out
One of the common cancers in men is prostate cancer – we all know what's involved in having a check and it might put you off going to the doctor, having to bend over and being probed in a way you don't want to be. However a few seconds of discomfort should not put you off. Typical symptoms may include increased frequency or pain on urinating, or blood in your urine or semen.
Early detection is essential and I would urge anyone with worrying symptoms to please go to their GP. Survival rates are increasing, particularly with prostate cancer, but if you don't take that first step to get checked out you won't get the early treatment you need.
Darren Eadie is the ambassador for the Norfolk County Council's Menkind campaign, working to encourage men to look after their mental and physical health. You can read his blog here to access all the useful links on cancer support and symptom-spotting: www.norfolk.gov.uk/menkind