There are around 9,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed each year in Northern Ireland, so to mark World Cancer Day [4 February], the Public Health Agency (PHA) has highlighted some steps that can reduce the risk of getting cancer.
Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “We know that if cancer is diagnosed early, a person is more likely to survive. One third of cancers are preventable, and early detection helps successful treatment. Some of the differences in survival rates in Northern Ireland compared with other countries may be due to patients presenting later to their GPs.
“It is therefore important for people to be aware of warning signs which need to be investigated to ensure speedy diagnosis and treatment.”
Some examples of symptoms which need a visit to your GP are:
• Coughing up blood;
• Having a mole which begins to change, such as getting larger, inflamed or developing irregular edges;
• Starting to bleed again after the menopause;
• Mouth ulcers that have not healed after three weeks;
• Food regularly seeming to stick on the way down when you swallow.
Dr Harper added: “For cancer, the stage of disease at the time of diagnosis has a major influence on your chances of survival so if you have these symptoms or other concerns go to your GP for advice. I would also urge everyone to take note of the simple ways to reduce their own cancer risk.”
- If you smoke, try to stop. Visit www.want2stop.info for tips to help you quit;
- Keep alcohol consumption within safe limits. The website www.knowyourlimits.info has more information on this.
- Take regular exercise and aim to keep your weight within the recommended BMI range. The websitewww.choosetolivebetter.com has more information on simple steps that can help reduce weight.
- Avoid getting sunburn – use sunscreen and a hat. Do not use sunbeds.
Dr Harper continued: “Northern Ireland also has cancer screening programmes in place to help detect the first signs of cancer, therefore aiding successful treatment. These include cervical, breast and bowel cancer screening. I would encourage people to go for screening when it’s offered.”
Gerry McElwee, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, said: “Cancer Focus offers a wide range of cancer prevention services which help local people lower their risk of cancer. These include workplace and community Quick Fit and stop smoking clinics, a schools’ package for primary school children which covers healthy eating, exercise, care in the sun and a Smokebusters club, and our popular ManVan, which carries out health checks on men in rural areas. We also have a freephone cancer helpline on 0800 783 3339 for anyone who has any concerns.
For more information on Northern Ireland screening programmes visit www.cancerscreening.n-i.nhs.uk
Contact PHA Communications on 028 90553663.