Today marks World Cancer Day, and with the sobering statistic that at least one in three of us will get cancer, the Public Health Agency has urged the public to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer.
With an increasing number of cases each year in Northern Ireland, the Public Health Agency has urged people to speak to their GP if they experience any of the signs or symptoms.
Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the PHA, said: “Whilst cancer can be a difficult topic to address, we need to talk about it.
“There are around 9,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed each year in Northern Ireland and only by talking about cancer openly can we improve outcomes.
“For many cancers there are symptoms, and we know that if cancer is diagnosed early, treatment is much more likely to be successful.
“It is therefore important for everyone to be aware of warning signs which need to be investigated to ensure speedy diagnosis and treatment.
“Northern Ireland also has excellent cancer screening programmes in place to help detect the first signs of cervical, breast and bowel cancer.
“So in addition to being aware of signs and symptoms at all times, I would encourage everyone to go for screening when it’s offered.
“If you experience any of these symptoms, speak to your GP. Some of the differences in survival rates in Northern Ireland compared with other countries may be due to patients presenting later to their GPs.” concluded Dr McCarthy.
Examples of symptoms include: coughing up blood or blood-stained phlegm (sputum); a persistent cough (more than three weeks); a mole which begins to change, such as getting larger or inflamed, or developing irregular edges; blood in a bowel motion; starting to bleed again after the menopause; mouth ulcers that have not healed after three weeks; and food regularly seeming to stick on the way down when you swallow.
The PHA also advised that there are many things people can do to reduce the risk of cancer, including: quiting smoking; keeping alcohol consumption within safe limits; and taking regular exercise as well as aiming to keep your weight within the recommended BMI range.
The PHA also advised against getting sunburnt, recommending the use of sunscreen and a hat, and avoiding sunbeds.
Visit www.becancerawareni.info for information about cancer signs and symptoms, what to do if you’re concerned, and signposts to recommended sources of support or further information.
For more information on Northern Ireland screening programmes visit www.cancerscreening.hscni.net