• This presentation features 5 of the most common cancers:
Bowel - Breast – Cervical – Lung – Prostate
• Some cancers have specific symptoms, but not all cancers will
have symptoms in the early stages.
• Cancer can’t be diagnosed based on symptoms alone:
investigations, such as scans, biopsies and x-rays, are nearly
• The signs and symptoms described herein can be caused by
many conditions other than cancer.
• See your doctor if you notice signs, symptoms, or anything
unusual, so they can investigate properly.
The information in this presentation has been adapted from Macmillan Cancer Support’s information and is
current as of November 2011. For more information visit macmillan.org.uk or call 0808 808 00 00
• Age: increasing age is the main factor, more than 8 in 10 people who get bowel
cancer 883%) are over 60.
• Polyps of other chronic bowel problems: if you’ve had bowel polyps (non-
cancerous growths on the lining of your bowel), have ulcerative colitis or Chron’s
disease,your risk of bowel cancer is increased. It’s important to remember that most
chronic bowel problems are not cancer.
• Diet: a diet high in red meat and animal fat and low in fruit and vegetables increases
• Body weight: being overweight can increase the risk, especially for men
• Lack of exercise: some studies suggest that people who aren’t physically active are
more likely to develop bowel cancer
• Family history: a genetic mutation that could increasr the risk is only likely to be
present in your family if you have:
• one first degree relative who had it under 45
• at least two first degree relatives on the same side who had it
• cases of bowel and womb cancer on the same side of the family
• relatives wih multiple growths (polyps) in the bowel (colon)
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
• Blood in, or on the stools (bowel motions) – the blood may be bright red or dark in
• A change in your normal bowel habit (such as diarrhoea or constipation) for no
obvious reason, lasting longer than 6 weeks
• Pain in the abdoomen or back passage
• A feeling of not having empied your bowel properly afetr a bowel motion
• Unexplained weight loss
• Unexplained tiredness
The tiredeness can happen if the cancer has been bleeding so the number of red blood
cells is reduced (anaemia). Anaemia may also make you feel breathless.
Sometimes cancer can cause an obstruction in the bowel and cause these symptoms:
• Being sick (vomiting)
• Pain in the abdomen
• A bloated feeling
• Age: Breast cancer mainly affects women over 50. In the UK more than a half of
breast cancers occur in women over 65
• Hormonal risk factors: there is an increased risk for women who:
• Dense breast tissue: breasts with more glandular and connective tissue and less
fatty tissue, breasts appear denser on mammograms (breasts x-rays)
• Radiation: women who had radiotherapy to their chest under 35 for cancers such as
Hodgkin lymphoma may be at an increased risk of breast cancer
• Lifestyle: being overweight, lack of exercise, alcohol may increase the risk
• Genetic factors: if you have more than one relative that has developed cancer, it
may be better to check with your GP. However, only 5-10% of breast cancers are
thought to be due to an inherited altered gene running in the family.
• started their period under 12
• have late menopause
• don’t have children or have children over the age of 30
• don’t breast-feed/breast-feed for less than 12 months in total
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
• In most people the first symptoms of breast cancer is a painless lump. Although
most breast lumps are benign (not cancerous), they still need to be checked
carefully to rule out the possibility of cancer.
• See your GP if you have:
• lumps or bumpy areas in your breast
• a change to the outline or shape of your breasts
• unsual nipple discharge that is not milky
• Unusual nipple discomfort or pain in one breast (many women say that their breasts
are more tender or a bit lumpy just before their period)
• Cervical cancer can take many years to develop. Before it does, changes occur in the
cells of the cervix: these ubnormal cells are not cancerous, and are called cervical
intra-epithelias neoplasia (CIN). Some doctors call these cells pre-cancerous. It is
important to know that most women with CIN do not develop cancer.
• Sexual contact: having sex at an early age and having has several partners can
increase the risk, as HPV (human papilloma virus), carried both by men and women,
can affect the cervix cells. Condoms can help to reduce the risk. Cervical cancer
though is not infectious and can’t be passed on to other people.
• Immune factors: a weakened immune system may also allow CIN to develop into a
cancer. Smoking, poor, dite, and infections (such as HIV/AIDS) can weaken the IS.
• Contraceptive pills: long-term use of the contraceptive pill (more than 10 years) can
slightly increase the risk of developing cervical cancer, but the pill’s benefits
outweigh the risk for most women.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
• The most common symptoms is abnormal vaginal bleeding usually between periods
or after sex. Often there is also a bad-smelling vaginal discharge, and discomfort
• Women who have had their menopause may have some new bleeding.
• There are other conditions that can also cause these symptoms but it’s important to
see the doctor or practice nurse about them.
• Smoking: cigarette smoking is the cause of most lung cancers. Passive smoking
slightly increase the risk too, but not as if you smoke yourself. Pipes and cigars are a
risk factor too, although less than cigarettes.
• Radon gas: in some parts of the UK a natural gall called radon can pass from the soil
into the foundations of buildings. Exposure to high concentrations can increase the
risk of developing lung cancer. It’s believed that 9% of lung cancers in European
countries are caused by exposure to radon.
• Age: about 80% in lung cancers are diagnosed in people over 60. Lung cancer rarely
affects people under 40.
• Genetic risk: if you have more than one relative, on the same side of the family, that
has developed lung cancer, it may be better to check with your GP.
• Asbetstos: people who have been in prolonged or close contact with asbestos have a
higher risk of developing cancer, especially if they smoke. Asbetsos and smoking act
together to increase the risk.
• Post cancer treatment: people who’ve been treated for some tyoes of cancer may
have a slightly increased risk of developing lung cancer many years later.
REDUCING RISK: stop smoking; exercise; healthy diet (especially if you smoke).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
• Continuing cough, or change in a long-standing cough
• A chest infection that doesn’t get better
• Increasing breathlessness and wheezing
• Coughing up blood.stained pleghm (sputum)
• A hoarse voice
• A dull ache or sharo pain when you cough or take a deep breath
• Loss of appetite and wweight loss
• Difficulty swallowing
• Excessive tiredness (fatigue) and lethargy
• Age: men under 50 have a low risk but their risk increases as they get older.
• Ethnic group: some ethnic groups have a higher chance of developing prostate
cancer than other. black African and black Caribbean men are nore likely to develop
prostate cancer than white men. Asian men have a lower risk.
• Family history: it’s thought that men’s risk of developing prostate cancer is more
likely if their father/brother had it at/under the age of 60, or more than one man on
the same side of the family has had prostate cancer.
• Diet: it’s thought that a diet high in animal fat (inclusing dairy products), a high
intake of calcium, and low intake of fresh fruit and vegetables may increase the risk
of prostate cancer
REDUCING RISK: tomatoes and tomato products may help to protect against prostate
cancer. This may be because they contain high levels of a substance called lycopene.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Prostate cancer if often slow-growing and symptoms may not occur for many years.
Men with early prostate cancer are unlikely to have symptoms as they only occur when
the cancer is large enough to put pressure on the urethra. In men over 50, the prostate
gland often gets larger due to a non.cancerous condition called benign prostatic
hyperplasia or hypertrophy (BPH). Symptoms of both benign enlargement of the
prostate gland and malignant tumours (cancer) are similar and can include any of the
• Difficulty passing urine
• Passing urine more frequently than usual, especially at night
• Pain when passing urine
• Blood in the urine (this is not common)