Wisbech people miss important health signs

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LOCAL research shows that the people of Wisbech are at risk of missing important symptoms of the UK’s biggest cancers, such as lung and breast cancer.

The research, commissioned by the NHS Anglia Cancer Network, shows that although more than nine out of 10 people in Wisbech identify that a lump or swelling is a possible symptom of cancer, there is considerably lower awareness of other symptoms.

For example, when asked to name as many symptoms as they could, only five per cent named ‘a persistent cough or hoarseness’ – a possible sign of lung cancer.

People in Wisbech also displayed low awareness of many of the lifestyle factors that may put them at risk of developing cancer. Although nearly nine out of 10 (87%) know that smoking is a risk factor other factors scored much lower, with just over a quarter (26%) identifying ‘family history’ and ‘diet’ named by just 16 per cent of respondents.

These findings have prompted the Be Clear on Cancer campaign to make people across the Anglia region more aware of the symptoms of common cancers.

Dr Liz Robin, Director of Public Health at NHS Cambridgeshire, said: “Breast and lung cancers are two cancers for which early diagnosis saves the most lives – so there is a real opportunity to make a difference with this campaign. People too often have symptoms for weeks or even months – either they have ignored them or have sat at home worrying. One of the issues is that people may be scared about what they’ll hear.

“I’d like to reassure people in Wisbech that most of the time these symptoms will not be cancer – but if they are, it is much better to get them checked out as soon as possible. For those who feel their symptoms are embarrassing? Believe me, there isn’t much your GP hasn’t seen before – nothing you can tell them or show them will come as a shock.”

There are some general cancer symptoms to look out for, such as unexplained weight loss and chronic fatigue, and people are reminded to be aware of changes to their body and visit their GP if they notice anything unusual. Possible specific signs of bowel, breast and lung cancer can include:

Breast cancer -

· A lump or thickening in the breast or armpit

· Any change to your nipples

· Skin changes – puckering, redness, dimpling or hardening

· Any change in your breasts which is unusual for you

Lung cancer -

· A cough that doesn’t go away for three weeks

· Coughing up blood

· Unexplained persistent breathlessness

· Persistent pain in your chest and/or shoulder

For more information about cancer, visit www.nhs.uk/cancer