Cancer is on the rise in Australia. There are 25,000 new diagnosed cases of cancer each year in Queensland alone, and that says nothing about the number of cases going undetected. But while cancer is becoming more prevalent, treatments to manage, and in some cases cure, this terrible disease are also improving. It’s important for everyone, especially those over 50, to get regular check-ups and to familiarise themselves with the symptoms associated with the most common cancers. Early detection is key, but with the right approach and lifestyle choices, a potential patient could save a life – their own.
Australian Cancer Rates
The statistics are sobering. In 2015 it has been projected that 69,790 men and 57,010 women will be diagnosed with cancer. 26,470 men will die of this terrible disease, as will 20,100 women. Between 1982 and 2011 the likelihood of developing cancer increased from 383 cases per 100,000 members of the general population to 484 out of the same number.
There are many reasons for this increase, which include:
•Increasing size of the population
In the past, many cancers were not detected until it was too late, while medical science could do little to help those who were affected. Chemotherapy was once the only option, but now a range of new treatments have been developed which significantly increase survival rates. But the earlier a cancer is detected the better, and that’s why being familiar with the symptoms of the most common cancers is very important.
Symptoms of Cancer
Symptoms can vary, but there are early warning signs which should be noted. This doesn’t mean that a person should feel paranoid or anxious about their health, but if there is a real symptom, then it is always worth getting it checked by a medical professional.
Common cancers and their symptoms include:
• Prostate Cancer:
This is the most common cancer among Australian men, with a valuable amount of prostate cancer information freely available. It’s also most prevalent in men over the age of 50. It develops when cells begin to act abnormally in the prostate, which is a small gland about the size of a walnut between the genitals and anus. Symptoms can occur in older men naturally, as the prostate gland does continue to grow in later life. However, it’s always better to be on the safe side and speak with a doctor. Symptoms include a frequent urge to urinate, low flow pressure when urinating, blood in semen or urine, pain in the lower back, hips, or thighs, and finding it difficult to start urination.
• Breast Cancer:
This is the most common cancer in Australian women. It is possible for a man to develop breast cancer, but the disease is primarily seen in women. Breast cancer can cause significant psychological distress as survivors may have to have their breasts removed in order to beat the disease. That’s why early detection is so important, especially for the at risk group of women between 50 and 74 years of age. There are also many types of breast cancer which require different treatments. Symptoms can include a lump or lumps in the breast; ulcers, redness, crusting or inversion of the nipple; discharge coming from a nipple without squeezing; change to the skin of a breast including dimpling or redness; and pain in the affected area which will not diminish.
• Bowel Cancer:
Also known as colorectal cancer, bowel cancer is common among both men and women, especially those over the age of 50. It occurs when a tumour forms anywhere along the colon and rectum. 90% of people can be cured if the cancer is detected early in its development. Symptoms include lethargy, unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, and feeling as though the bowel has not emptied completely.
• Oral Cancer:
3 Australians are diagnosed with Oral cancer every day, and yet it is a disease which is often overlooked. Oral cancer involves cancerous growths in the mouth or on the tongue. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, loss of sensation to the affected area, white or red patches, painful gums, loose teeth, slurring of speech, unusual tastes, a visible lump, or swollen lymph nodes.
• Skin Cancer:
An astonishing fact is that 2 out of every 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before they reach 70. In places like Queensland, skin cancer rates are among the highest in the world. There are different forms of skin cancer, but symptoms usually include one or more of the following: nonhealing sores, pale, red or pearl coloured lumps on the skin, new freckles or spots, and moles which change colour.
All five cancers are a major concern for Australians of all ages, but especially those aged 50 and over. But by knowing what to look for, these diseases can be treated in many cases. There is no doubt, however, that preventative measures and regular check-ups are of key importance to either stop the disease from happening or catching it early enough so that it can be treated.
Prevention and Why Regular Screening is CRITICAL
Currently, it is impossible to predict who will develop cancer within any given time-frame. Indeed, medical science is just getting to grips with the idea that there are many different forms of cancer. That being said, studies show that there are ways to reduce the likelihood and the impact of cancer by being proactive:
There is growing research which shows that lack of exercise increases the risk of developing many cancers. Inactivity has been linked significantly to colon cancer and breast cancer. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can improve health, with 60 minutes of moderate to intense exercise significantly reducing the risk of developing cancer.
Studies show that being obese or overweight increases the risk of cancer. Sugar and fat, when ingested in moderation, can be part of a healthy diet, but by minimising the daily amount taken, this can help reduce the associated risks. Furthermore, a diet high in fruits and vegetables may have a protective effect against cancer and heart disease, providing the body with all of the nutrients needed to promote good health.
As we’ve stated above, the earlier a cancer is detected the better. For those over the age of 50, even if you are feeling well, a regular check-up at the doctors will help to identify any existing issues before they become life-threatening.
This is one of the leading contributors to cancer risk and poor health. By reducing stress as much as is possible, by removing stress inducers from a person’s life, and trying relaxation techniques such as meditation, a person can minimise the impact of stress on their health and sense of well-being. Cancer is a terrible disease, but by being proactive and taking the right steps, you could significantly extend both your quality and quantity of life.