Those routine check-ups

With everything that has been in the news recently I was struck by a very personal, and of course tragic story, regarding the Girls Aloud star, Sarah Harding who sadly died this weekend aged only 39 from breast cancer. With all the hype surrounding the Covid vaccine, and I admit I’m one that have been singing its praises, we might be forgiven for forgetting that there are still many conditions that still manage to outwit us. Breast cancer, sadly, is one of them.

When HIV came along in the 1980s Princess Diana helped enormously to allow people to talk openly about things that previously had been taboo subjects. Breast cancer fell into that category of things that just were not polite to talk about, sadly some people still find it awkward to discuss these things even with their own doctor.

However, just like HIV, the sooner you take action regarding breast cancer the better the chances of a good outcome. So what should you look for?  Of course this is just general advice, but it is a good idea to regularly keep an eye out for any of these common symptoms. Any lump you notice in your breast that doesn’t go away, or in general underarm area.

Any swelling or strange irritation. Some people notice a change in skin texture, with skin becoming flaky or feeling sunburnt. Skin that feels tight, especially around the nipple, or pain in the same area. If you notice any of these then it would be very sensible to have a conversation with your doctor, or specialist without delay.

Of course men don’t escape from the awkward conversations either. Testicular cancer is not uncommon and is very easy to check, but perhaps the one to really make a fuss about is prostate cancer. It is a sobering fact that around 12% of men will develop this form of cancer, but if it is detected early then treatment options generally have very good outcomes.

There is a very simple blood test that looks for a particular antigen, but sadly the results are not just black and white, and you can often detect raised levels as a result of something other than cancer, so it is always a good idea to talk this thorough with your doctor before taking the test. There are pros and cons to doing this test as a routine, but once you are over the age of 50 any obvious change to your toilet habits should be taken as a possible warning sign.

We all lead busy lives, and I’m often amazed at what we all manage to cram into our daily routine. I almost missed booking my car in for it’s pre ITV service the other day, and that set me thinking. It would be a good thing if all of us had a regular MOT check, just like our cars have to. You can drive your own car every day and not really notice that the brakes have started to slowly loose their efficiency because you just get used to it. It’s the same with bodies, of course.

I wear glasses for writing and also for driving, and I know only full well that over time the shape of my eyes will continue to change and so affect my eyesight, but I’m one of those who still don’t put a regular date in my diary for an eye test. So as soon as I have finished this column that is the next thing on my list. And whilst I am at it I shall make sure I have got my next dental check-up booked in.

Dr Marcus Stephan

My views are entirely personal and do not reflect the view or position of any organisation. You should always consult your own medical practitioner regarding any concerns that you may have as I am unable to answer any personal questions. Never stop taking any prescribed medication without checking with your own doctor first.

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