Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is encouraging the people of Cumbernauld to wear something tartan, share their photo on social media and get everyone talking about Cancer Support Scotland Awareness Day on Friday 27 November 2020.
The day is the flagship campaign of Cancer Support Scotland (formerly known as Tak Tent), a charity which provides emotional and practical support to anyone affected by cancer. The organisation offers counselling and complementary therapies, as well as working in collaboration with other agencies and partners in the fight against cancer.
Every year, about 30,000 people in Scotland are told they have cancer and trends predict that this number is likely to rise to almost 35,000 this year. The increasing number can be partially attributed to the nation’s ageing population as life expectancy increases.
Earlier this year Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub published feature articles to raise awareness of breast cancer, childhood cancer, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer. Below, we take a closer look at cancer in general and what to do if you have any concerning symptoms.
KEY INTRODUCTORY INFORMATION GUIDE TO CANCER
What is Cancer?
We all hear the word ‘cancer’, but what really is it and what do we mean? Cancer is not a single disease with a single type of treatment. There are more than 200 different types of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.
The root of cancer is in the body’s cells. Cells are tiny building blocks that make up the body’s organs and tissues. Cells receive signals from the body, telling them when to grow and when to divide to make new cells. This is how our bodies grow and heal. These cells can become old, damaged or no longer needed. When this happens, the cell gets a signal from the body to stop working and die.
Sometimes these signals can go wrong, and the cell becomes abnormal. The abnormal cell may keep dividing to make more and more abnormal cells. These can form a lump, called a tumour.
It’s important to know that not all tumours are cancer. Doctors can tell if a tumour is cancer by taking a small sample of cells from it. This is called a biopsy. The doctors examine the sample under a microscope to look for cancer cells. A tumour that is not cancer (a benign tumour) may grow, but it cannot spread to anywhere else in the body. It usually only causes problems if it grows and presses on nearby organs.
A tumour that is cancer (a malignant tumour) can grow into nearby tissue. Sometimes cancer cells spread from where the cancer started (the primary site) to other parts of the body. They can travel around the body in the blood or through lymph fluid which is part of the lymphatic system. When these cancer cells reach another part of the body, they may grow and form another tumour. This is called a secondary cancer or a metastasis.
Some types of cancer start from blood cells. Abnormal cells can build up in the blood, and sometimes the bone marrow. This is where blood cells are made. These types of cancer are sometimes called blood cancers.
The most common types of cancer in Scotland are breast, lung and colorectal cancers in women, and prostate, lung and colorectal cancers in men. Together, these account for over 50% of all cancers experienced.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Cancer?
Whilst we know there are many different types of cancer, we do not know all the causes. But we do know about the possible factors that can affect your risk of developing cancer. Some people make lifestyle changes to try and reduce this risk. Changes can include stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet, being physically active, keeping to a health weight and following recommended alcohol guidelines.
Other ways in which you can reduce your risk of cancer include protecting yourself from exposure to the sun, get vaccinated against certain viral infections (such as hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV)), and avoiding risky behaviour such as unsafe sex or sharing needles.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cancer?
Knowing how your body normally looks and feels can help you be aware of any changes that could be caused by cancer. There are many different symptoms of cancer. Common symptoms including unexplained bleeding, unexplained weight loss, a lump or swelling, or unexplained pain.
In most cases, these symptoms are caused by something other than cancer. But it’s important not to ignore these symptoms, particularly if they persist and are causing problems. There are simple things you can do daily to check for signs and symptoms of cancer, such as checking your breasts for lumps if you are a woman and checking your testicles for lumps if you are a man.
What Should You Do If You Recognise Any Signs or Symptoms?
If you have any symptoms that are ongoing, unexplained or unusual for you it’s important to see your GP. There are certain symptoms you should always have checked. Don’t be scared about getting symptoms checked by your GP. The earlier cancer is found, the more likely it is to be cured.
Make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible if you have any concerns in relation to the previously highlighted signs or symptoms. Remember, the sooner you get checked out the better things will be, either in terms of putting your mind at rest or getting the right treatment.
If you’ve already been to your GP with symptoms but they haven’t gone away, it is important to see them again. If they have any concerns that your symptoms might be caused by cancer, they will advise on the next steps in terms of tests, diagnosis and treatment.
To show your support to someone affected by cancer, you can simply wear something tartan on Cancer Support Scotland Awareness Day (Friday 27 November 2020). Alternatively or additionally, you can donate to organisations such as Cancer Research UK, MacMillan Cancer Support, Cancer Support Scotland, Maggie’s Lanarkshire and Breast Cancer Now, to name just a few.
More information about Cancer Support Scotland Awareness Day can be obtained online or by getting in touch with Cancer Support Scotland’s fundraising team by telephoning 0800 652 4531 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.