Georgia Dixon

Caring

7 cancer warning signs to be aware of

7 cancer warning signs to be aware of

It’s the word that sends shivers down all our spines when we hear it uttered – cancer. And, given that it’s the leading cause of death in New Zealand, it’s something we certainly need to be aware of – particularly as we age and our risk of developing cancer increases.

An easy way to remember the early symptoms of cancer is with the simple acronym “CAUTION”:

  • Change in your bathroom habits
  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Thickening or a lump in the breast, testicles, or somewhere else in the body
  • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
  • Obvious change in the size, colour, shape or thickness of a mole, wart or sore
  • Nagging cough (or coughing up blood) and hoarseness
These symptoms may vary as there are hundreds of different types of cancers, but it’s a good bet to report anything causing concern to your doctor, as it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

And while those of us a little more prone to hypochondria than others may find ourselves freaking out about any and all bodily abnormalities, it’s important not to panic if something seems off. If you notice one or more of the above symptoms, stay calm and book an appointment with your GP. Don’t put it off over fear of what you might hear. Cancers caught early have the best chance of being beaten, so don’t hide in denial – be proactive.

Experts recommend women regularly check their breasts for any changes as well as getting a mammogram and pap smear every two years, while men are encouraged to keep an eye out for changes in the testicles and have regular prostate screenings. Both sexes should also ask their doctors about a bowel screening.

Even though some cancers are simply unpreventable, you can always minimise your risk by developing healthy habits in all aspects of your life. Stop smoking, be sun smart, keep active, eat healthy and reduce your alcohol intake. Even just one of these changes could save your life.

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