If you’re a regular on this blog, you’ll know all about our aim to see more cancers diagnosed at an earlier stage, when the chances of survival are much improved.
As it stands, cancer tends to be diagnosed at a later stage in this country than elsewhere. Partly as a result of this, our survival rates are poorer than some other parts of the world.
But changing this is no mean feat, as there are so many reasons why cancer might be diagnosed late. Researchers have been investigating how this picture could be changed, although the evidence for what actually works is still growing.
But at a broad level, there are three things that could make a big difference – public awareness, awareness in health professionals, and better access to diagnostic tests.
Spotting the symptoms
It’s well known that people sometimes put off seeing their doctor when something’s wrong. Often, this will be because they really don’t think their symptom is a cause for concern, or warrants medical attention. Essentially, they don’t realise the potential seriousness of what they’ve noticed. Maybe that’s because they see other people with a similar problem and don’t think it’s much to worry about.
A persistent cough is a good example of this. Most of us get one at some time or other, and when something seems to be so common, it doesn’t seem to be all that serious. People with persistent coughs can feel perfectly fine in themselves, so they don’t think that anything serious can be the matter.
In a similar vein, they perhaps don’t think their symptoms are severe enough to be anything untoward. Or maybe they just don’t know what to look for.
In fact, a persistent cough can be an early sign of lung cancer. Before you panic over a tickly throat, it’s important to remember that in most cases of persistent coughing, the cause turns out to be something less serious. But it’s vital that people go along to their doctor to get such symptoms checked out, because the consequences of missing a case of cancer at an early stage are so serious.
So how can you tell what to look out for? And how do you know if something unusual in your body needs to be taken seriously and warrants a trip to the GP for a checkup?
A technological solution?
This is where our new smartphone app comes in. The app helps you to find out about the key possible signs and symptoms of cancer, and encourages you to get checked out should you ever notice any of these, or anything else that’s unusual for you. This is particularly important for the over-50s, because cancer is more common in this age group – but the principles apply to anyone.
There are versions of the app available for both iPhones and Android phones, and there’s an iPad version in the pipeline. For those of you who don’t have a whizzy smartphone, there’s also a version on our website.
And to make sure no-one’s left out, we also have our printed leaflets and resources, so that as many people as possible can find out about the symptoms of cancer.
We don’t want to encourage people to become paranoid about their health, but we do know that spotting cancer early will help to prevent thousands of cancer deaths every year in the UK. So if you spot one of the possible signs or symptoms, or notice something that’s unusual for you, we’d urge you to get along to the GP.
Finally, if you like our app, please do tell people about it and help spread the word that spotting cancer early can make a real difference.
Jodie is Senior Health Information Manager at Cancer Research UK