Cancer: The most common first symptom – seen in 23% of all patients prior to diagnosis

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Cancer is a ferocious force because it often spreads throughout the body before people detect it. Early detection is key to stamping it out and improving survival outcomes. Unfortunately, knowledge of the warning signs remains woefully inadequate.

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 percent) of cancer patients presented with abdominal symptoms before being diagnosed with one of 27 common and rarer cancers.

“Abdominal symptoms are common at presentation among cancer patients, while time to presentation varies by symptom,” the researchers concluded.

“The need for awareness campaigns may be greater for symptoms associated with longer intervals to help-seeking.”

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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 explains: “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.

“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,” warns the charity.

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 risk of bowel cancer is higher in people who are obese compared to those who have a healthy BMI,” warns Cancer Research UK.

Try to keep a healthy weight by being physically active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

In fact, there is strong evidence which shows that people who are more physically active have a lower risk of bowel cancer.

Published at Thu, 16 Dec 2021 17:14:00 +0000

Cancer: The most common first symptom – seen in 23% of all patients prior to diagnosis

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