Cancer is a part of all of our lives, but many are working towards a future without cancer. At Better Healthcare, we recognise 04 February as World Cancer Day.
Cancer is a disease that we’ve all come to know. According to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 2 UK people born after 1960 are at risk of receiving a cancer diagnosis during our lifetime. While the prospect of receiving a cancer diagnosis is scary, survival rates continue to increase as new technologies and treatments are tested and approved. However, more needs to be done. That’s why the team at Better Healthcare is raising awareness for World Cancer Day on the 04 February 2020.
What is World Cancer Day?
Every year, World Cancer Day is a day dedicated to raising awareness, improving education, pushing towards equity of healthcare services and increasing government accountability in the name of reducing and eliminating cancer. Run by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), this organisation represents thousands of cancer organisations from 162 countries around the world; including the likes of Cancer Research UK. As no one single organisation will ‘cure’ cancer, it will take a joint effort from all around the world to combat it.
The current theme for World Cancer Day is ‘I Am and I Will’, a 3-year campaign running from 2019 to 2021. It is focused on creating impact and increasing public exposure and engagement on all matters surrounding cancer. It’s thought that 18 million people were diagnosed with cancer in 2018; this is why it’s so important to increase awareness. In the UK, there are over 360,000 people diagnosed with cancer every year (2014 to 2016 average). However, cancer survival rates have been greatly improved by awareness surrounding early detection, particularly in drawing attention to the symptoms that both sufferers and healthcare professionals need to look out for when spotting cancer.
This is why World Cancer Day continues to play an essential role in reminding us about the need to continue the fight against cancer, and why awareness is such an important tool.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a collection of different diseases that share similarities in the way that they form. All cancers involve the division of some of the body’s cells. And since our body is made up of trillions of cells, virtually every cell in the body is vulnerable to the possibility of cancer.
Our cells usually grow and divide to create more cells when needed. Cells either become damaged or old and die, with new cells taking their place. However, cancer occurs when this division continues unabated and spreads into the surrounding tissues. Instead of dying, these old or damaged cells continue to survive, and new cells are formed when they aren’t required. Eventually, through continual division, these cells form tumours, often in the form of solid tissue mass. However, some cancers, such as leukaemia and other cancers of the blood, do not tend to form tumours.
These malignant tumours continue to spread into nearby tissue and, as they grow, cells break off and travel to other parts of the body to form new tumours. This is what it means when we talk about cancer ‘spreading’. There are over 200 types of cancers which can be split into a variety of categories such as carcinomas, lymphomas, sarcomas, leukaemias and more.
Common cancers in the UK
Despite the high number of cancers that can develop in people, there are some that are more common than others. In the UK, the four most common cancers are:
Across these common cancers, and all types of cancers, the risk factors and symptoms can vary. Some cancers are more present in younger people, while others are more present in older people. Some are more present in people of particular races or ethnicities, while others can be present due to genetics and a family history of a particular cancer.
Despite almost primarily affecting women, breast cancer remains the most common cancer in the UK. It’s thought that about 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with this cancer and, if detected early enough, the survival rates are very good. To find out more about breast cancer, check out our previous blog post all about breast cancer and how it is treated. Everyone with breast tissue has a chance of developing breast cancer – including some men. To find out more take a look at our blog post all about how breast cancer is not just a female issue.
Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, and one of the most serious. It can often go undiagnosed in the early stages, due to lack of any noticeable signs and symptoms. The survival rates tend to be low but can be greatly improved by early diagnosis. This is why awareness is so crucial. To find out more about lung cancer and the treatment process, read our blog on what to expect after lung cancer treatment.
Just as breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women, prostate cancer is the most common cancer to affect men. It is a slow developing cancer and can even go undiagnosed for years due to a lack of noticeable symptoms. Unlike many other types of cancer, early diagnosis of prostate cancer may not necessitate treatment unless it starts to cause symptoms such as an increased need to urinate, having difficulty urinating or feeling like the bladder can’t be emptied. To read more about prostate cancer, read our blog ‘What to expect after prostate cancer surgery’.
Sometimes known as colon or rectal cancer, bowel cancer is primarily diagnosed in those over the age of 60. Common signs of bowel cancer include changes in bowel habits, persistent discomfort, or bloating in the stomach area and constant blood being present in the stool. For more information on bowel cancer, read our blog ‘What to expect after bowel cancer surgery’.
Symptoms don’t always equal cancer
Thanks to the proficiency that a lot of us have in ‘Googling it’ in 2020, many people who are unwell or are suffering from a particular set of symptoms can often find themselves being diagnosed by ‘Dr. Google’ as having cancer. In reality, the symptoms present in most types of cancer are incredibly similar to hundreds and thousands of other less-threatening conditions. Stomach pains and a change in bowel habits may indeed indicate bowel cancer, but they are more likely to be as a result of catching a common cold or contracting food poisoning.
Typing symptoms into Google can present the worst-case scenario as the first result; whereas qualified doctors will assume it to be the last result after more common causes have been ruled out. If you’re worried about your health and you do have concerns about symptoms, it’s vital to visit your GP as soon as possible, so that the diagnostic process can begin. Even if it’s not cancer, finding out why you feel the way you do will help alleviate any worries you may have about your health. If it does happen to be cancer, then going to your doctor as soon as possible increases the chances of successful treatment.
Better Healthcare supports World Cancer Day
The need to continually raise awareness about cancer and encourage its detection, prevention and treatment is essential. With Cancer Research UK aiming to see 3 out of 4 cancer patients survive by 2034, the fight against cancer is far from over. As Better Healthcare helps to support people who are living with cancer and people who are receiving end-of-life care, we support World Cancer Day on 04 February 2020 and encourage everyone to educate themselves about the various cancers and what symptoms should cause you to visit your GP.
Together, through research, awareness, prevention, education and support, we can all continue to fight back against cancer until it is a thing of the past.
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