Steps to take to detect cancer at early stage

Elaine C. Smith.
Elaine C. Smith.

Around 30,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland each year, with breast, bowel and lung the most common tumour types.

With an aging population, incidences of cancer are expected to increase but one way of tackling the disease is to detect more cancers in its earliest stages, when a wider range of treatment options are available, with a greater chance of survival.

The average survival rate for cancer has doubled over the past 30 years, so it’s not the same disease it was many years ago. People are more aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer and that new treatments are available. Thousands of people are now surviving cancer because it’s being detected earlier.

Participating in screening tests such as the existing breast and bowel cancer programmes remains the best way of detecting cancer at an early stage, before symptoms have a chance to develop.

But getting to know your body and how it normally looks and feels is an important part of your personal health routine. See your GP if you spot any unusual or persistent changes in your body. Don’t get scared, get checked.

Breast cancer fast facts:

The most important message is to be aware of any changes to your breasts. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the survival rate.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Scottish women, accounting for almost 30 per cent of female cancer cases in 2010.

Yet around 20 per cent of symptomatic breast cancer patients present to clinicians with symptoms other than lumps. So it’s important women know what the other signs are. The key symptoms of breast cancer are: n a lump or area of thickened tissue or bumps in either breast; n a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts; n a lump or swelling in either of your armpits; n skin that appears like orange peel; n crusting on or around the nipple or leaking nipples (which may or may not be streaked with blood); n dimples, skin becoming drawn in; n a nipple that becomes turned in, or pointing differently. Don’t delay in making an appointment with your GP if you spot any unusual or persistent changes as screening can detect cancer at an early stage and be aware of any changes to your breasts between screening. To find out more, contact NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88 or visit”