I will always remember 28 July 2016. It is the day my partner was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before then, I never would have thought anyone could get breast or any kind of cancer, before reaching a certain age. But here’s a fact. My partner is 34 and she has breast cancer, so if she can get it, anyone can.
But the good news is that when cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, treatment is more likely to be successful. So finding cancer early can make a difference, and most women know that. My partner certainly knew it, and when she spotted a lump in her breast, she didn’t wait too long before going to her GP. That’s how it all started for her.
But here is another fact. Men don’t understand they can get cancer. I am serious – we don’t get it.
More than one in three men will develop cancer at some stage in their lives. It is true that the disease is mainly diagnosed in older people, with around 90% of cases in the UK being in men over 50. But it doesn’t mean that younger men can’t have cancer.
Testicular cancer is a relatively rare form of the disease, but over 2,000 men are diagnosed each year in UK. And it is the most common type of cancer to affect men between the ages of 15 and 49. So yes, young men can get cancer.
Why is spotting cancer early so important?
It is important to understand that spotting cancer early and starting treatment as soon as possible gives a person a better chance of beating the disease.
In UK, cancer survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years. This is mainly due to better treatment, screening and early diagnosis. But thousands of deaths could be prevented if men were ready to talk about cancer and not be so scared of “The Big C”.
Imagine cancer as a ‘civil war’ within your body. Some of your cells have decided to get angry and have started doing ‘silly stuff’. What do you need to do? Well, you need to get them to stop messing around with your life. Period.
There are around 200 different types of cancer, which can cause many different symptoms. So, if you spot a change in how your body is working, it might be a good idea to speak to your GP.
Of course, it is important to know your body and what’s normal for you.
Lads, don’t be scared. It’s only cancer.
But it is also important to not be scared of talking about it. When cancers are small they may not make you feel or look unwell. That’s why it is important to see your GP if you notice any changes that are unusual or don’t go away, even if they don’t seem to be serious and even if they aren’t painful.
Some of us are simply worried about what our doctors could find. Well, don’t be – as most of the time it will not be cancer. But if there is something wrong, it is best to find out before it is too late. And don’t forget, if your symptoms don’t go away after you saw your doctor, be stubborn and brave and go back to see them. Your GP will always be there for you.
What else can you do?
40% of cancer cases could be prevented by changes in lifestyle. Regularly alcohol consumption increases the risk of seven different types of cancer, so the more you cut down on the booze, the more you reduce the risk of cancer.
It’s even worse if you smoke and drink, as alcohol helps some of the worse chemicals contained in your cigarettes to go straight in your lungs. But tobacco alone increases the risk of 13 types of cancer. As Cancer Research UK state, if you are able to quit smoking tobacco (in any forms, including e-cigarettes), you could increase your life expectancy by up to 10 years.
But it’s no secret: alcohol and tobacco are both serial killers. There is no real safe amount of alcohol you can drink and it doesn’t matter if you have just one binge drinking session a month with the ‘gang’, or if you drink two or three pints a day. You will start damaging your body as soon as you drink. So cut out the booze and don’t smoke.
The last thing you can do is to have a healthy lifestyle and do some physical exercise. Let’s be honest, if the only physical activity you have a day is walking the distance between you and your car, you’re not really taking much exercise. So move, walk, take the stairs, walk the dog, forget about your car and keep moving. Try to walk two miles a day, and it will help you in the long run.
But, most importantly, do not be scared. It’s only cancer, and we will win the war against it.