Cancer is a group of conditions where the body's cells begin to grow and reproduce in an uncontrollable way. These cells can then invade and destroy healthy parts of the body.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. Around 1 in 9 women will develop breast cancer at some stage in their lives. Breast screening is conducted to identify breast cancer at an early stage, as surviving breast cancer is more likely with early detection.
All women in the UK aged between 50 and 70 years of age are routinely invited to attend a breast screening every 3 years. The screening test is called a mammogram, which is an X-ray picture of the breasts.
You should be examining your breasts on a regular basis. For the 5 steps to completing a self examination and what to look out for, visit www.breastcancer.org. If you notice an unusual lump in your breast or any change in the appearance, feel or shape of your breasts, it is important to speak to your GP as soon as possible.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK. Symptoms include blood in your stools, an unexplained change in your bowel habits (such as constipation or diarrhoea over a long period of time), pains in the tummy that are severe and continual and the loss of weight loss. There are various factors that can increase your risk of getting bowel cancer.
To reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer, you should:
- Take part in the screening programme when you are eligible
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day
- Eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Increase your fibre intake
- Reduce your intake of red meat
- Stop smoking
- Exercise regularly
The symptoms of cervical cancer are not always obvious. It may not cause any symptoms at all until it has reached an advanced stage. The most common symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods or after sexual intercourse.
As with all cancers, early detection is paramount for successful treatment. Women between 25-64 years of age are routinely invited for cervical screening: every 3 years for those aged from 25-49 and every 5 years for those aged from 50-64. The screening involves some cells being removed from the cervix with a plastic brush. These are examined under a microscope to see if there are any abnormal cells, which if found, can then be removed.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise. Early symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, pain in the pelvis and lower stomach, and difficulty eating. Again, early detection may lead to a more positive outcome.
Cancer of the ovary can spread to other parts of the reproductive system and the surrounding areas, including the womb (uterus), vagina and stomach.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer among white populations, in the UK and
worldwide. The best way to prevent against all types of skin cancer is to stay safe in the sun, as follows:
- Apply minimum SPF15 sunscreen at least 30 minutes before exposure to the sun
- Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours and after towelling and swimming
- Stick to the shade or cover up using a T-shirt, hat & sunglasses between 11am and 3pm
- Drink plenty of water, and avoid alcoholic drinks as these will dehydrate you
Avoid using sunlamps or sunbeds, as these can be more dangerous than natural sunlight. They use a concentrated source of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which increases the risk of skin cancer.