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Concerns Raised over Public’s Awareness of Cancer Symptoms

Friday, September 11, 2009 at 07:11 PM EDT

One in seven UK citizens are unaware of the symptoms related to cancer, according to a charity survey conducted by Cancer Research UK.

For the poll, nearly 4,000 people were questioned. Results show that 19 percent of men and 10 percent of women could not name a single symptom related to cancer.

The results are troubling to experts, who believe that as many as 5,000 cancer deaths could be prevented each year in the UK simply by diagnosing cancer earlier. Certainly, the inability to recognize early symptoms of the illness is counter-productive in the pursuit to diagnose cancer quickly.

As Sara Hiom, director of health information for Cancer Research UK, explains, “When cancers are detected earlier, treatment is usually more effective and often milder. We’re not expecting people to be able to recall every symptom, but being generally aware of changes that could be a sign of cancer could make a crucial difference for people who do develop the disease.”

Of those who were able to recall symptoms associated with cancer, more than half listed the presence of an unusual lump. Other commonly reported symptoms included moles (in relation to skin cancer), unexplained weight loss and bowel or urinary problems. Additional symptoms related to cancer include:

A sore that doesn’t heal after several weeks
Mouth ulcers that last longer than 3 weeks
Recurring cough
Difficulty swallowing
Unexplained pain that occurs for more than 4 weeks
Changes in menstrual patterns

To counter the troubling results of the survey, Cancer Research UK is presently running an initiative of National Awareness and Early Diagnosis.