The most ‘common’ first symptom found in 23% of all cancer patients prior to diagnosis has been identified by scientists.
Millions of people across the world lose their lives to more than 100 forms of cancer each year and it remains one of the leading global killers alongside heart disease.
Both common and rarer cancers share similar early warning signs and can spread throughout someone’s body before it is detected.
A lack of understanding of initial symptoms is said to contribute to that tragic toll and results in a longer or tougher course of treatment and reducing some people’s chances of recovery.
Research has been conducted to help raise awareness of the initial warning signs for any form of cancer, and has found the most ‘”common” sign prior to diagnosis, reports the Express.
Early detection for cancer is key to preserving life and for suitable treatment to be identified and a study published in the Journal of Public Health has sought to plug this gap in knowledge.
Researchers in the study abstract said: “Raising awareness of possible cancer symptoms is important for timely help-seeking.
“Recent campaigns have focused on symptom groups (such as abdominal symptoms) rather than individual alarm symptoms associated with particular cancer sites.”
The researchers noted that “understanding the frequency and nature of presenting abdominal symptoms among cancer patients could inform the design and evaluation of public health awareness campaigns”.
They examined eight presenting abdominal symptoms (abdominal pain, change in bowel habit, bloating/distension, dyspepsia, rectal bleeding, dysphagia, reflux and nausea/vomiting) among 15,956 patients subsequently diagnosed with cancer in England.
At the end of the study, the researchers observed almost a quarter (23%) of cancer patients presented with abdominal symptoms before being diagnosed with one of 27 common and rarer cancers.
The researchers concluded: “Abdominal symptoms are common at presentation among cancer patients, while time to presentation varies by symptom.
“The need for awareness campaigns may be greater for symptoms associated with longer intervals to help-seeking.”
Other cancer symptoms include:
- Blood in your poo
- Diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
- A feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
- Pain in your stomach or back passage (anus).
How to respond
The NHS says: “Although it’s unlikely to be cancer, it’s important to speak to a GP so they can investigate.”
As the health body points out, finding cancer early means it’s easier to treat.
“If your GP suspects cancer, they’ll refer you to a specialist – usually within two weeks.”
Can I reduce my risk?
It is not always clear what causes cancer but there are proven risk factors. In fact, it is estimated four in 10 UK cancer cases could be prevented.
Overweight and obesity is the second biggest cause of cancer, according to Cancer Research UK.
The charity warns: “Being overweight doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely develop cancer. But if you are overweight you are more likely to get cancer than if you are a healthy weight.”
Obesity means being very overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
BMI is a commonly used method to measure if you’re a healthy weight for your height.
The charity continued: “The risk of bowel cancer is higher in people who are obese compared to those who have a healthy BMI.”
Try to keep a healthy weight by being physically active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
In fact, there is strong evidence that shows that people who are more physically active have a lower risk of bowel cancer.
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