1 in 3 people in the UK will develop cancer at some stage in their life and it is more common in later life. However, 4 in 10 cancers are preventable and you can take action by becoming more aware of your body and changes that take place, and by undertaking screening that is available.
Types of Cancer
Some of the most common types of cancer in the UK are:
- blood cancers
- bowel cancer (also known as colon cancer)
- breast cancer (in men as well as in women)
- cervical cancer
- lung cancer
- mouth cancer
- oesophageal & stomach cancer
- ovarian cancer
- pancreatic cancer
- prostate cancer
- skin cancer
- testicular cancer
The organisations we have mentioned in the box on the right will provide you with more information about symptoms and treatments. Always see your GP if you are worried.
Ways to help prevent cancer
The success rate for treating cancer is increasing all the time. However it’s a good idea to try to improve your health so that you lower your risk of developing cancer in the first place. Or if you do develop cancer the increasing your chance of catching it early when treatment can be more effective. You can help yourself by looking after yourself:
- Diet – It is believed that the foods we eat are responsible for up to a third of deaths from cancer. Red or processed meat is linked with certain cancers, whereas having a healthy diet high in fibre with plenty of fruit and vegetables can reduce your risk of developing cancer.
- Lifestyle – Giving up smoking is the best way to reduce your risk of cancer. Staying out of the sun or using sunscreen as much as possible is also very important. Never use a sun bed and cut down your alcohol intake. Minimise Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) use and avoid harmful substances such as asbestos, and unnecessary radon gas and x-rays.
- Exercise – Maintaining a healthy body weight through keeping physically active can reduce the risk of cancers such as of the breast, bowel and kidney.
- Pay attention to your body – if you develop new or persistent symptoms, for example, unexplained weight loss, a persistent cough, unexplained pain or swelling, or persistent heartburn it may be time to visit your GP. It may be nothing to worry about but it is best to check.
- Self-examination – checking your mouth, neck and body for early signs of cancer such as lumps could be a lifesaver.
- Attend screening programmes – each programme is specific and enables early detection and treatment of cancer.
Take the Cancer Research UK quiz to understand your risk of cancer.
It is advisable to take advantage of the screening programmes that the NHS provides. These are:
Bowel Cancer Screening
NHS bowel scope screening is a new test to help prevent bowel cancer. It does this by finding and removing any small growths, called polyps, in the bowel that could eventually turn into cancer. This service is offered to men and women aged 55 years. If you don’t take it up at 55 years, you can do so before you are 60 years. It is only offered once within the 5 year period.
Men and women between the ages of 60 and 74 are sent a home test kit which is used to collect a stool sample every two years. If you’re 75 or over, you can ask for this test by calling the freephone helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
The test results normally take around two weeks. If you receive an abnormal result, you will be referred for further investigation but this does not necessarily mean that you have cancer.
Visit NHS.UK bowel cancer overview for more information.
Breast Cancer Screening
This programme offers screening every 3 years to all women aged over 50 years old. If you are aged 70 years old or over, you will not automatically be invited for breast screening but you do have the right to be screened every 3 years if you ask. Some women are now invited from the age of 47 years. Screening includes a mammogram and may be followed by an ultrasound and/or biopsy if necessary. If you have found a lump, then your GP may refer you to a fast track/one stop breast screening service.
All enquiries should be made to the Breast Screening Team at the Royal Victoria Infirmary.
Visit NHS.UK breast cancer Screening overview for more information.
Cervical Cancer Screening
The NHS Cervical Screening Programme invites all women from the age of 25 to 64 to attend cervical screening. Women aged 25 to 49 are offered screening every 3 years and those aged 50 to 64 are offered screening every 5 years. If you are sexually active then you should continue your screening as some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are linked to cervical cancer.
Visit NHS.UK cervical cancer overview for more information.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Men over 50 years can ask for a PSA test. The PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test measures the level of PSA in your blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate gland, which naturally leaks into the bloodstream. A raised PSA may be an early indication of prostate cancer, however other conditions (like enlargement of the prostate, prostatitis and urinary infection) can also cause a rise in PSA.
Your GP can organise a PSA test for you if you have symptoms of prostate disease. Men with early prostate cancer may not have any symptoms as these only occur when the cancer is large enough to put pressure on the urethra or disturb bladder function.
Visit NHS.UK prostate cancer overview for more information.
Local Information and Advice
If you, or someone close to you, has been diagnosed with cancer, there are places you can go for advice and support.
Bright Red Charity offers support for people affected by blood cancer.
Coping with Cancer North East offer a variety of services, all free of charge, at different venues in the North East, including complementary therapy, counselling, palliative care and drop in and support groups.
Fighting All Cancers Together (FACT) aims to source, promote, and form relationships between the support services, and oganisations available to cancer patients.
HeadStrong – Breast Cancer Care is a partnership between Marie Curie and Breast Cancer Care. They can help you to cope with hair loss by offering you tips on hair and scalp care for before, during and after treatment. They can also offer you the chance to experiment with scarves, hats and hairpieces in a comfortable and private environment.
Lifespan is a local charity which brings ease and support to people with serious and life-threatening illness, and to the family members and friends who care for them.
Look Good … Feel Better is a charity that offers free makeovers to women with cancer. They report that patients who go to their workshops have stronger self-esteem and enhanced moods after they’ve indulged in some ‘me time’, as being pampered can have a positive effect on your health.
Macmillan One to One Support Service is for people with cancer who need support and advice on a one-to-one basis following hospital treatment. It offers support and advice on many issues to improve quality of life including:
- Managing the symptoms and long term side effects of cancer treatment including fatigue, breathlessness, bowel problems, pain, anxiety and low mood
- Making sure you are aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer recurrence and when to access medical help – Feeling well and keeping active
- Helping you to manage your illness yourself
- Making sure you are aware of services that can help you
Macmillan Cancer Information Centre has a well-stocked library of leaflets and booklets and internet access for patients and carers. The centre offers a drop in service to anyone affected by cancer.
Maggie’s Newcastle offers free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends. Services include:
- practical advice about benefits, hair loss and eating well
- qualified professionals to provide emotional support
- group classes and activities
- garden and kitchen
Citizens Advice Gateshead Leukaemia Service give advice to anyone affected by leukaemia, lymphoma or any malignant blood disorder. They can help with:
- benefits and financial advice
- housing and employment
- home and hospital visits
Help with your money
Cancer can be hard on your finances. You may need to work less and spend more on living costs. Make sure that you are claiming any benefits that you’re entitled to and maximise your income.
Macmillian Cancer Support support people affected by cancer with online and telephone information and advice. You can speak to a Welfare Rights Adviser Monday or a Financial Guide to get help with money worries. Or download their Money worries leaflet.
Maggie’s Newcastle have a specialist benefits adviser that you can arrange an appointment with to make sure you’re claiming all of the benefits that you are entitled to. They can help with filling out forms and applying for other support such as parking permits.
Citizens Advice Gateshead Leukaemia Service give benefits advice to anyone affected by leukaemia, lymphoma or any malignant blood disorder. They can help with benefits advice, grant applications and financial issues.
It can be useful to speak with someone about the benefits you may be entitled to and how they may impact upon your other benefits. A local independent advice service can help guide you through the process such as;
- Citizens Advice Newcastle – provide advice to anyone in Newcastle
- Newcastle Welfare Rights Service – provide advice to people in priority groups including those over 65. They have self help material on their website.
- Search Newcastle give benefits advice to older people in the West of Newcastle
There are more benefit advice services available across Newcastle. Read the ‘Where to get benefit advice‘ booklet.
You may be eligible for free NHS prescriptions. Check on the NHS BSA eligibility checker.
Other Useful Information
- Newcastle Libraries have a number of books available to borrow relating to cancer. These books have been reviewed and recommended by Macmillan Cancer Support, so you can be assured that the information contained within them can be trusted.
- The Patient Information Centre offers a range of health related information including;
- medical conditions
- procedures and treatments
- details about self help and support groups
- information about complaints procedures
- copies of leaflets
Cancer Discussion Forums
- Cancer Chat – Cancer Research UK’s forum
- My Macmillan – Macmillan Cancer Support’s online community
- The Eve Appeal runs the ‘Ask Eve Community’ for those that would like to talk to other people in a similar situation, or perhaps have a question about tests or treatment methods following a recent diagnosis.
- Blood Cancer UK run an online community forum where you can talk to other people affected by blood cancer.
Please note – The content on this website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you are feeling unwell, make an appointment to see your GP or contact NHS 111. In an emergency, dial 999.
Last updated: September 7, 2020