Posted by: jreeveseastwood - Posted on:


Every month the Atherstone Surgery raises awareness of some of the health and wellbeing campaigns running nationally and worldwideto encourage good health promotion among our patients. This month is dedicated to awareness for Bladder Cancer and Skin Cancer.

We understand that the word cancer can be daunting to many. We want to ensure those who have cancer or have a loved one suffering with cancer get the help and care they need and we want you to know you are not alone.

Cancer awareness is at the forefront of cancer prevention. When cancer is picked up early, treatment is more likely to be successful. Our Goal is to get more cancers diagnosed at an early stage by raising awareness of key symptoms and encouraging people to discuss them with their doctor without delay.

Bladder Cancer Awareness

May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. This is a good time to learn about bladder cancer, risk factors, prevention, and treatment. For this reason, we’re going to take a closer look at bladder cancer so that you can be armed with the proper information to take control of your health.

As we move through the month of May, we want everyone to understand what bladder cancer is and what measures they can take to keep their bodies healthy and reduce their risk. Remember, it’s always a good idea to stay on top of your health. This means knowing the symptoms and being knowledgeable about what habits can increase your risk of bladder cancer, as well as, what genetic factors can contribute as well.

What is Bladder Cancer?

The bladder is part of the body system that filters waste products out of your blood and makes urine (wee). This is called the urinary system, or urinary tract. Bladder cancer begins when cells in the urinary bladder start to grow out of control. As more cancerous cells grow, a tumour can develop, and cancer can also spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.

The most common type of cancer is urothelial carcinoma, also known as transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), which is cancer in the urothelial cells of the bladder lining. Urothelial cells also make up other parts near the bladder and urinary tract, such as part of the kidneys, ureters (tubes that connect the bladder and kidneys and where urine travels through), and the urethra (where urine is released from the bladder).

Around 10,300 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer in the UK every year. It’s the 11th most common cancer in the UK, and the 8th most common cancer in men, but is less common for women.

Bladder cancer usually takes a long time to develop, so it is most common in older people. Almost 60 out of 100 (almost 60%) of new cases are in people aged 75 and over. It is rare in people under 40.

It is unclear why cells become cancerous. However, several factors are thought to put one at a greater risk of bladder cancer. These include:

•	Age - Bladder cancer is more common in people over the age of 60. It is less common in people under the age of 40.

•	Smoking - Smoking may cause about 5 in 10 (50%) bladder cancers. Chemicals that can cause bladder cancer are found in cigarette smoke. These chemicals eventually go into the pee (urine) through the blood. They can damage the cells that line the bladder. Over many years, this may cause bladder cancer. The longer a person smokes for and the more they smoke, the greater the risk.

•	Sex assigned at birth - Bladder cancer is more common in men than in women.

•	Exposure to chemicals at work - Exposure to certain chemicals can increase your risk of bladder cancer. These include chemicals previously used in dye factories and industries (such as rubber, leather, textile, printing, hairdressing, gasworks, plastic and paint.) Many of these chemicals are now banned and health and safety guidelines at work have improved. But it can take more than 30 years after exposure to them for bladder cancer to develop.

•	Urinary tract infections (UTIs) - Repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs) and untreated bladder stones are linked to a less common type of bladder cancer called squamous cell cancer.

•	Bladder schistosomiasis - An untreated infection called schistosomiasis, may cause bladder cancer. This infection is caused by a worm that lives in fresh water. This worm is a parasite. It is found in Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. This infection is rare in the UK.

•	Catheters - Having a catheter in for a long time can increase your risk for bladder cancer.

•	Previous treatment for cancer - People who have had radiotherapy to the pelvis have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer. People who have had the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide also have an increased risk. But the benefits of cyclophosphamide treatment far outweigh the risk of developing bladder cancer.

•	Pioglitazone - A drug called pioglitazone used to treat diabetes may increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. This risk is small and may depend on how long you have taken the drug for and at what dose. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about this. Other medicines for diabetes are not linked to bladder cancer.

•	Family history - If you have a close relative who has had bladder cancer, you may have a slightly higher chance of developing it. This could be because people in the same family may share certain risk factors, such as smoking.

While there is no sure way to prevent bladder cancer, you can certainly work to reduce your risk. For starters, quit smoking immediately. Smoking is thought to contribute to at least half of all bladder cancers. Additionally, it’s a good idea to limit exposure to harsh chemicals in the workplace, especially those that have been linked to bladder cancer. Always practice the best safety precautions in the workplace and ensure that you are protecting yourself from these chemicals with the proper equipment.

If you don’t already, it’s also a good idea to drink plenty of fluids. Fluids aren’t just to keep the body hydrated but it helps to push out toxins in the body.  Along with this, ensure that you have a well-balanced diet including large amounts of fruits and vegetables as some studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables can possibly reduce the risk of bladder cancer.

Most bladder cancers are diagnosed while they are still only in the bladder lining (early stage). These early bladder cancers can often be cured or controlled with minor surgery or treatment into the bladder. If bladder cancer is left untreated it has the potential to spread to other areas of the body such as the lymph nodes, bones, lungs or liver.

The good news is, bladder cancer can often be detected early, allowing individuals to quickly be treated and improve their outlook. Here are a few symptoms of bladder cancer that you can begin watching for:

  • Blood in the urine.
  • Problems passing urine (passing urine very often, suddenly or experiencing pain/burning when you pee.)
  • Weight loss for no reason.
  • Pain in your back, lower tummy or bones.
  • Feeling tired or unwell.

If you notice blood in your urine, even if it’s just the once, you should visit your GP, so the cause can be investigated. The chances are it’s nothing serious, but if it is cancer, finding it early makes it more treatable.

Other bladder cancer symptoms include cystitis (a urinary tract infection) that is difficult to treat or comes back quickly after treatment and pain when urinating. Additional kidney cancer symptoms include pain in the side, below the ribs, that doesn’t go away and weight loss.

Some of the above symptoms are much more likely to be caused by other conditions rather than cancer. Tell your doctor straight away if you have these symptoms. If you have an infection, it can usually be treated quickly with antibiotics. And it is always best to check for cancer as early as possible so that it can be diagnosed while it is easier to treat.

What happens at your appointment?

If you have blood in your pee, a GP will ask about your symptoms and may need to check inside your bottom (rectal examination), and your vagina if you’re a woman.

They might also:

  • Ask for a pee sample or arrange a blood test
  • Prescribe antibiotics if they think you have an infection
  • Refer you to a specialist for tests

Please click on the link below to visit the Fight Bladder Cancer website who offer a wide selection of leaflets with information on bladder cancer and help for patients and carers.

For other useful websites dedicated to information and support for those suffering or those caring for those with bladder cancer please take a look at some of the websites below:

Skin Cancer Awareness

Skin Cancer Awareness Month is an annual event organised by the American Skin Cancer Foundation, with the objective of raising awareness and understanding of how to prevent, detect and treat skin cancer.

With the warmer weather finally arriving, Brits are flocking to the gardens and beaches to get some warmth and sunshine. Experts are advising them to heed the warnings about practicing safe sun.

One in every three cancers diagnosed is skin cancer. It’s the most common and fastest rising cancer in the UK, with one in four males, and one in five females, diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer; and one in 36 males, and one in 47 females, diagnosed with melanoma (the most serious, life-threatening form of the disease).

UV exposure from the sun and sunbeds is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer and unprotected exposure is especially dangerous, as 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 85% of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of the skin cells. The biggest cause of which is too much exposure to UV light from the sun or from sunbed use.

There are two main types of skin cancer:

  • Melanoma
  • Non-melanoma

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when cells called melanocytes grow more quickly than usual. While it is less common than non-melanoma, it does have the ability to spread deeper into the skin, and to other organs, if it is not treated at an early stage.

The most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer in the UK is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). BCC grows very slowly and is very unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. Early diagnosis is still important as treatment is more difficult for BCC’s that have been there for a long time and can be more likely to grow back.

The second most common non-melanoma skin cancer in the UK is Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). These cancers grow slowly but are more serious than a BCC because there is a small chance these cancers could spread to another part of the body.

Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body but is more common in areas that are exposed to the sun. It can present in many different shapes, sizes and colours but the most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole, a change to an existing mole or freckle or a change in appearance to a normal patch of skin.

What Is a Non-melanoma?

Non-melanoma skin cancers develop slowly in the upper layers of the skin and are not connected to moles. They are more common than melanoma but are not as likely to spread to other parts of the body. Most non-melanoma can be effectively treated and cured if detected early.

Non melanoma skin cancer includes:

  • basal cell skin cancer – this is also called basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
  • squamous cell skin cancer – this is also called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
  • some other rare types

Non melanoma skin cancers tend to develop most often on skin that’s exposed to the sun. There is a high cure rate for these cancers. Most people only have minor surgery and don’t need further treatment.

Around 156,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year. The number could be higher as we know that they are under reported. This makes it the most common type of cancer by far. Because non melanoma skin cancers are easy to treat and cure, they’re often left out of national cancer statistics.

Non-melanoma skin cancers usually develop on skin that is exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck, but they can sometimes occur on areas of the skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight.

Their appearance can vary but they normally appear gradually and slowly increase in size.

How is skin cancer diagnosed?

Skin cancer diagnosis usually starts with your GP. They will examine the abnormal mole or abnormal area on your skin and discuss with you the changes you have noticed.

They may then refer you to a specialist for further investigation and to determine a diagnosis. The specialist will do a physical examination and perform a biopsy. A biopsy is a small surgical procedure in which a small part or all of the affected area is removed so it can be looked at under a microscope to confirm the presence of cancer.

Most skin cancers are treated with surgery. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are usually removed by a dermatologist as an outpatient procedure. However, in some cases, particularly with melanoma, more extensive surgery may be required.

Who gets skin cancer?

Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. This may be long term exposure, or short periods of intense sun exposure and burning. There are several factors that affect your risk from sun exposure including:

  • How much time you spend outdoors.
  • Your natural skin colour.
  • Exposure from sunbeds (artificial UV radiation).
  • Age is also a factor. The older you are, the more likely you are to get non melanoma skin cancer.
  • People with a history of sunburn or overexposure to the sun in childhood also have a greater risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

All types of skin are at risk of sun damage and skin cancer. But fair-skinned people who tend to burn easily or go red or freckle in the sun are most at risk of developing skin cancer. People with darker skin have a lower risk of developing skin cancer. But they still have a risk. It is important for everyone to follow skin protection advice and to check their skin regularly, including areas that don’t get sun exposure.

Skin cancers can look very different and the symptoms can vary. Some of the symptoms are similar to other conditions. To spot skin cancer early it helps to know how your skin normally looks. That way, you’ll notice any changes more easily.

Skin cancer seldom hurts and is much more frequently seen than felt, but if detected, diagnosed and treated early, almost all skin cancers, including melanoma, are treatable or curable.

Checking our skin regularly and thoroughly is vital. Raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of different types of cancer is key for catching cancer earlier. Here’s our top tips to support you in becoming savvy with skin surveillance:

  • Conduct a full-body self-examination once a month, every month – it’s simply the smartest way to get to know your skin and build confidence in identifying changes that could indicate the early warning signs
  • Check your entire skin, from the top of your head, to the soles of your feet, including your scalp, behind your ears, under breasts, the genitalia and your nails. If possible, get someone to help you check the back of your body / hard to see areas
  • Get savvy on skin cancer by learning how to identify suspicious lesions and always see your GP or dermatologist with anything new, unusual or changing.

Common symptoms of skin cancer include:

  • A sore that doesn’t heal

The sore can look see through, shiny and pink or pearly white. It can also look red. It may feel sore, rough and have raised edges.

  • Ulcer

Look out for an area of skin that has broken down (an ulcer) and doesn’t heal within 4 weeks, and you can’t think of a reason for this change.

  • A lump

This might be small, slow growing, shiny and pink or red.

  • Red patches on your skin

These red patches could also be itchy. This could be due to other non-cancerous skin conditions. But get it checked to make sure.

  • Freckles or moles

A change to a mole or freckle can be a sign of another type of skin cancer called melanoma.

To look at areas you can’t see easily, you could try using a hand held mirror and reflect your skin onto another mirror. Or you could get your partner or a friend to look. This is very important if you’re regularly outside in the sun for work or leisure.

You can take a photo of anything that doesn’t look quite right. If you can it’s a good idea to put a ruler or tape measure next to the abnormal area when you take the photo. This gives you a more accurate idea about its size and can help you tell if it’s changing. You can then show these pictures to your doctor.

The ABCDE Rule of skin cancer is an easy-to-remember system for determining whether a mole or growth may be cancerous.

A = Asymmetry 
Most melanomas are irregular and asymmetrical. Draw an imaginary cross through the mole. Does it look the same in all 4 quadrants?
B = Border 
Melanomas are more likely to have a blurred or “smudged” border with an irregular outline.
C = Colour 
Melanomas are commonly made up of multiple colours, such as different shades of brown, black, red and pink.
D = Diameter
Melanomas are typically over 6mm wide. A crude test of a mole is to check if it is bigger than the blunt end of a pencil.
E = Evolving 
Any changes in a mole are worth reporting. Changes may be increased pigmentation (becoming darker), itchiness, bleeding or change in size.

Please see the video below for a guide to checking for skin cancer using the ABCDE method:

If you have noticed something has changed with your skin, or are concerned something is wrong with your skin, make an appointment with your GP right away.

How can we reduce our risk of skin cancer?

Staying safe in the sun is the most effective way to protect against skin cancer. This can be done by adopting a series of simple sun-safe strategies. Start by checking the UV index – when UV levels reach three or above, the following ‘Three S’ approach to sun protection should be used in combination:

  • Slop on sunscreen (Apply sunscreen liberally and evenly to all areas of exposed skin 20 minutes before heading outdoors. We recommend using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Always reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, more often if perspiring and always straight after swimming)
  • Sun-protective clothing (Clothing should be considered the first line of defence against UVR and should cover as much skin as possible such as long-sleeved shirt, trousers or long skirt, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection (Opt for sunglasses labelled with a CE UV400+ rating to protect the eyes which are up to 10 times more sensitive to UV damage than our skin). For more effective protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.)
  • Seek shade (The sun’s rays are the strongest between 11-3pm in the UK, so that’s a good time to come indoors or ensure you’re well protected under an umbrella or awning.)

For a selection of useful leaflets and handbooks regarding skin cancer and sun awareness please click on the links below:

For more information on skin cancer and to view helpful websites dedicated to its diagnosis, prevention, treatment and support for those afflicted please check out the links below: