Earlier the better with cancer diagnosis

Scottish Government column pic.
Scottish Government column pic.

Around 30,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland each year, with breast, bowel and lung the most common tumour types.

With an aging population, incidences of cancer are expected to increase but one way of tackling the disease is to detect more cancers in its earliest stages, when a wider range of treatment options are available, with a greater chance of survival.

The average survival rate for cancer has doubled over the past 30 years, so it’s not the same disease it was many years ago.

People are more aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer and that new treatments are available.

Thousands of people are now surviving cancer because it’s being detected earlier.

Participating in screening tests such as the existing breast and bowel cancer programmes remains the best way of detecting cancer at an early stage, before symptoms have a chance to develop.

But getting to know your body and how it normally looks and feels is an important part of your personal health routine. See your GP if you spot any unusual or persistent changes in your body. Don’t get scared, get checked.

Breast cancer fast facts:

The most important message is to be aware of any changes to your breasts. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the survival rate.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Scottish women, accounting for almost 30% of female cancer cases in 2010.

The number of people diagnosed with breast cancer is projected to rise to around 5180 per annum for the period 2018 to 2022 (compared to around 4,430 a year between 2008-2012), an increase of 17%. This reflects the impact of Scotland’s ageing population as well as improvements in diagnosis.

Progress in early diagnosis, treatment and survival has been steady in breast cancer – deaths from female breast cancer have decreased by 21% in the past 10 years.

One in nine women in Scotland will still be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. (In England and Wales, this figure is one in eight).

You’re five times more likely to survive breast cancer if it’s diagnosed and treated at the earliest stage.

Quantitative research carried out for the breast cancer campaign by TNS Scotland in 2012 showed that many women are not proactively checking their breasts: 42% of women (45+ C2DE, Scotland) check less frequently than once a month, and almost a quarter of women (as above) check their breasts less than once a year.

Even those women who do check have poor knowledge of potential breast cancer signs and symptoms such as changes to nipple appearance, size or shape of breast, dimpling, skin texture or nipple discharge.

Yet around 20 per cent of symptomatic breast cancer patients present to clinicians with symptoms other than lumps. So it’s important that women know what the other signs are.

The key symptoms of breast cancer are:

n a lump or area of thickened tissue or bumps in either breast;

n a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts;

n a lump or swelling in either of your armpits;

n skin that appears like orange peel;

n crusting on or around the nipple or leaking nipples (which may or may not be streaked with blood);

n dimples, skin becoming drawn in;

n a nipple that becomes turned in, or pointing differently.

Don’t delay in making an appointment with your GP if you spot any unusual or persistent changes as screening can detect cancer at an early stage and be aware of any changes to your breasts between screening. To find out more, contact NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88 or visit http://www.nhsinform.co.uk” www.nhsinform.co.uk.