DOCTOR, HOW WOULD I KNOW IF I HAVE CANCER?
“DOCTOR, HOW WOULD I KNOW IF I HAVE CANCER?”
By Dr Kevin Aung, MBBS, FRACGP.
As a GP, I get asked a lot of questions. A very common question I get asked is how to know if you have cancer. Cancer, like many other illnesses, can cause symptoms which can vary widely from minor insignificant symptoms to quite obvious ones.
Let me dispel any myths and summarise some of the key cancer symptoms to know to watch for, because we usually tend to ignore them until it’s too late. Such symptoms include:
• Unexplained, unintentional and significant weight loss (i.e., more than 5% of your body
weight lost over 6-12 months).
• Unexplained tiredness, persistent indigestion, tummy bloating, change in bowel or bladder
habit, generalised body itch and night sweats.
• Any sudden appearance of a lump in the body. It could be a lump in the neck, breasts,
tummy, or genital area.
• Any non healing sores or ulcers and any change in moles on the body.
• Blood in any sort of body fluid is significant. We take it seriously if you notice even very
slight blood in the phlegm after coughing, in stool, in urine, or bleeding in women after menopause.
As a rule of thumb, I would encourage my patients to be aware of any change in their body and report any changes to your GP no matter how insignificant the symptoms are. It’s our job to screen symptoms and make sure you are healthy!
And it is imperative to mention to us any family history of cancer because many cancers tend to run in the family.
And lastly, a bit of good news: many common cancers can be detected and diagnosed with good outcomes even before they start showing symptoms, via our population-based National cancer screening programs.
Therefore, I would encourage all eligible patients to participate in our national cancer screening programmes:
• The Bowel Cancer Screening Program every 2 years for those aged 50-74years. Let your GP know if you haven’t received a kit in the mail, we can provide one to you.
• Mammograms every 2 years with BreastScreen NSW for ladies 40-74 years of age.
• Cervical cancer screening test (previously known as pap test) done every 5 years with your GP for ladies from 25-74 years old.
– And lastly, an annual skin cancer check-up with your GP.
Be informed, listen to your body, and let your GP know if you’re unsure! – Dr Kevin.
Kevin is passionate about providing evidence-based preventative primary care GP services to his patients. His special interests are in chronic disease including cardiology, gastroenterology, mental health, geriatrics and comprehensive family medicine.
Kevin looks forward to building a long-term rapport with his patients and families at Dural’s longest-established medical centre.