Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of the body begin to grow and reproduce uncontrollably. These cancerous cells can then invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs. When this happens the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

There are over 200 different types of cancer, each with its own methods of diagnosis and treatment.

Spotting the signs of cancer

Changes to the body’s normal processes or symptoms that are out of the ordinary can sometimes be an early sign of cancer. In some cases, a lump may appear on the body, or there may be unexplained bleeding etc. It must be noted that there are many non cancerous conditions that can cause similar symptoms to cancer, if in doubt, visit your GP.

Here’s a short video with 7 major warning signs of cancer.

How common is cancer?

Cancer is an extremely common condition, with more than one in three people developing some form of cancer during their lifetime. Four of the most common types of cancer are:

Breast Cancer  

Here’s a video from Cancer Research on spotting breast cancer early.

Lung Cancer

Here’s a short video on lung cancer symptoms and early warning signs to look out for.

Prostrate Cancer

Here’s a short video on identifying early signs of prostate cancer.

Bowel Cancer

Here’s a short video on spotting early signs of bowel cancer.

Cancer treatment

The primary treatment for cancer is surgery. This is because, in many cases, cancerous tumours can be surgically removed. Other common treatments are chemotherapy, a powerful cancer-killing medication, and radiotherapy, which involves the controlled use of high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells.

Responding to a diagnosis

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, the first priority is to seek medical care. A conversation with your GP will help you understand your needs and allow you to be referred to a key worker who will be on hand to help you through your diagnosis. This person will be responsible for assessing exactly what kind of care and support you should receive, and helping you to find it.

What kind of help could you hope to get?

If you require assistance at home, with housework, dressing and washing or even just to keep you company, care attendants are available to support you. It is recommended that you look into this as soon as possible, as many care attendants have long waiting lists.

Social services and private care services can also help with meals and laundry, or provide a “sitting service” that lets your carer have a break.

For more advanced care, an occupational therapist can provide a more detailed assessment of your needs at home. They can make your life much easier by arranging for specialised equipment and adapting your house.

Respite Care

It is important that the families of people suffering with cancer also receive support, information and guidance. In addition to “sitting services”, respite care can provide a replacement care service for a short period.

By entering respite care for a short period, usually a weekend or week at a time, the cancer sufferer’s relatives or family members can attend to their own health and wellbeing by taking a short break from their caring duties.

Many hospices provide respite care, offering high-level care. It is vital that people suffering with cancer feel comfortable and well supported during respite periods.

End of Life Care

If cancer progresses beyond the treatment stage, then very particular support may be required for people who are in the last months or years of their life. Those providing such care should ask about the wishes and preferences of the patient, and take these into account as they work to plan care. They should also support family, carers or other people who are important to the patient.

End of life care can be provided in care homes, hospices or hospitals, depending on needs and preference.

Care / Nursing Home

If you choose to receive end of life care in a care home, trained staff will be available to look after you day and night. They should provide the same type of care that family members can provide at home, such as help with washing, dressing and providing meals. Some care homes provide skilled nursing care to residents when they need it. These are particularly suitable for those who have a disability, a serious long-term condition or very restricted mobility.

Your care may involve the local hospital’s palliative care team, the local hospice team, your GP, community nurses and district nurses, so it is important that any care home has the flexibility to cope with your own particular needs.