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
  • respiratory
  • skin cancer
  • testicular cancer

The organisations included at the bottom of this page 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. Improving your health can lower your risk of developing cancer or increase your chance of catching it early when treatment can be more effective. You can look after yourself by:

  • Having a healthy diet high in fibre with plenty of fruit and vegetables can reduce your risk of developing cancer.
  • Giving up smoking is the best way to reduce your risk of cancer.
  • Cut down on alcohol intake
  • Exercise can reduce the risk of cancers such as of the breast, bowel and kidney
  • Stay out of the sun and use sunscreen.
  • 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 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.

An NHS free Health Check is available to people aged between 40 years and 74 years. As we get older, we have a higher risk of developing one of these conditions.You may be invited for a free check to help spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia.

Screening programmes

Cancer treatment is more successful if it’s found early. The NHS will invite you to attend a cancer screening appointment when you reach a certain age. 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 those 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.

Additionally people between the ages of 56 and 74 are sent a Faecal Immunochemical Test kit (FIT) 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 is free, easy to return and results normally take around 2 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 for more information on bowel cancer.

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 for more information on breast cancer Screening.

Cervical Cancer Screening (smear test)

The NHS Cervical Screening Programme invites all women and people with a cervix from the age of 25 to 64 to attend a 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.

Find out more about Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.

Visit NHS.UK for more information on cervical cancer.

Predictive genetic tests for cancer risk genes

Cancer is not usually inherited. Some types, mainly breast, ovarian, colorectal and prostate cancer, can run in families. We all carry certain genes that protect against cancer. Inheriting faulty versions or “variants” of these genes can raise your risk of developing cancer.

Speak to a GP if there is a strong family history of cancer and you’re worried you may get it too. They may refer you for an NHS genetic test. This will tell you if you’ve inherited one of the cancer risk genes. You may be eligible for this NHS test if the faulty gene has already been identified in one of your relatives.

This type of testing is known as ‘predictive’ genetic testing because a positive result means you have a greatly increased risk of developing cancer. It does not mean you have cancer or are definitely going to develop it.

Read more on NHS about Predictive genetic tests for cancer risk genes

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 for more information on prostate.

Blood Cancer

The main symptoms of blood cancer to look out for are:

  • weight loss that is unexplained
  • bruising or bleeding that is unexplained
  • lumps or swellings
  • shortness of breath (breathlessness)
  • drenching night sweats
  • infections that are persistent, recurrent or severe
  • fever (38°C or above) that is unexplained
  • rash or itchy skin that is unexplained
  • pain in your bones, joints or abdomen (stomach area)
  • tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep (fatigue)
  • paleness

Ovarian Cancer

The main symptoms of ovarian cancer to look out for are:

  • persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
  • feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
  • pelvic or abdominal pain (that’s your tummy and below)
  • urinary symptoms (needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual)

Occasionally there can be other symptoms:

  • changes in bowel habit (eg diarrhoea or constipation)
  • extreme fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • unexplained weight loss
  • any bleeding after the menopause should always be investigated by a GP

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.

Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Centre has a well-stocked library of leaflets and booklets and internet access for patients and carers. Drop in without an appointment to speak to a trained volunteer for information and advice. Open 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

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.

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 mental health and medicines related information

National cancer organisations

Bright Red Charity offers support for people affected by blood cancer.

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 Cancer Support UK support people affected by cancer with information and practical help. This includes:

  • financial and benefits advice
  • telephone advice line to talk about any worries including money
  • information about different types of cancer and coping with treatments
  • online community where you can join group discussions, get your questions answered and find out more information about living with cancer

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.

Benefits advice

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;

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.

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.

Lymphoma Action run north east meetings on the first Wednesday of every month at 2 pm.

Jo’s Trust has a forum for HPV and cervical 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: April 28, 2023