Thursday, 30 August 2012

How Important is Early Diagnosis?

One of my very first cancer campaigns was “Commit to Beat Cancer” which was all about making sure the UK has the best possible outcomes for cancer patients. I’ve decided to go back to basics with this blog post and explain why early diagnosis is so vital and why it could save your life.

Many of us hate visiting the doctor. This is for a number of reasons. Many of us feel we shouldn’t “bother” our busy GP’s with what we think of as “minor” incidents. Some of us are also terrified of what the doctor may say or do. This needs to change because discovering cancer early could make a huge difference as to how you are treated and whether or not you will survive.

Lots of people still think cancer = death. This is not true. HUGE advances have been made and are still contining to be made every year. For example:
*More then 9/10 men with testicular cancer survive and are cured of the disease.

*More than ¾ of children are surviving cancer compared to ¼ surviving back in the 1960’s.

*The three most common cancers in the UK are breast, bowel and lung cancer and they have all seen their death rates drop to their lowest level in forty years.

*The number of deaths from cancer are continuously dropping

*The number of people surviving cancers such as prostate and skin have dramitcally improved

*The amount of people surviving more then ten years after a cancer diagnosis has DOUBLED over the past three decades

*The number of people surviving more then five years after a cancer diagnosis is now HALF of all cancer patients

*For cancers with low overall survivial rates, early diagnosis does still mean chances of beating the disease are higher.

Knowing Your Body
I have said this time and time again but knowing what is “normal” for you and your body is massively important. Knowing what is normal makes it easier to know when something isn’t quite right. It makes it easier to know when a consistent change is occurring and it will hopefully lead to you seeking medical advice quicker. Examples of getting to know your body include:
MEN – check your testicles at least once a month. Get to know how they feel; their size, their shape etc…..

LADIES – Check your breasts once a month to get to know what is “normal” for you and to check for any new and unexpected lumps, bumps and changes

EVERYONE - It may sound crude, but get to know your toilet habits. Know what is normal for you. Do you go twice a day or twice a week for example?


Visiting the Doctor
Do not EVER worry about wasting your GP’s time. You are not. If you are genuinely concerned about your body or your health then it is your GP’s job to check it out and reassure you. They are there to help, they are there to provide support and they are there to look after you. No ailment is too small!

Don’t be too scared to visit your GP. Remember, most of the time it will be absolutely nothing to worry about. It is ALWAYS best to get seen as soon as possible because it is always best to catch something as early as possible. If you are really nervous then take someone you trust with you.

Don’t ever feel embarrassed about talking to your doctor. They have probably seen and heard it all. They are also duty bound to keep everything confidential so whatever happens will not leave the room. If you feel more comfortable seeing a male or female doctor then just let the admin staff know and they will sort that out for you. A doctor will never be shocked by what you have to say or show, they will never laugh at you or make you feel uncomfortable – they are professionals trained to look after you.

Don’t use the excuse of being “too busy” to visit the doctor. Many surgeries now offer early morning or late evening appointments to help those with full on timetables.

If you feel you will forget all your worries and questions when you enter the doctor’s room then try and write as much as you can down before you go. That way you can make sure you tell them everything.

If you have already seen the doctor but are still worried then go back and see them again! Trust your instincts.

After Seeing the Doctor
The next step will depend on your symptoms and whether your doctor feels you need more investigations. They may just reassure you that things are ok and that you have nothing to worry about. They may be able to diagnose your problem and treat it themselves with a prescription. They may say for you to come back in a few weeks if things persist. Or they may refer you for more tests. Whatever happens, do follow your doctor’s advice and do get a second opinion if you feel you want/need one.

I can’t stress just how important it is to know your body and to go to the doctor if you feel something isn’t right. If, heaven forbid, you are diagnosed with cancer then finding it early could mean less treatment or it could mean you are able to survive the disease.

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