Stephen Fry is urging people with potential symptoms of abdominal or urological cancer to get checked out by their doctors.
The actor and comedian was treated for prostate cancer in 2018. The 64-year-old says: “A few years ago, I was pretty stunned to be given a diagnosis of prostate cancer. I was very lucky because mine was diagnosed early. Many of us can succumb to cancers, but there are symptoms that can be reported by the patient.
“So please, make an appointment with your GP if you notice discomfort in the tummy area or diarrhoea for three weeks or blood in your urine even just once.”
He features in a short film, along with doctors Hilary Jones and Philippa Kaye and members of the public, that shares information about cancer diagnosis and recovery after treatment and early intervention.
Abdominal and urological cancers are common, yet many people are unaware of the warning signs. We spoke to Jo Stoddart, cancer specialist at Bupa, to find out more.
What are urological cancers?
“Urological cancers affect the urinary tract system and the male reproductive organs,” says Ms Stoddart. “Some of the most common types include renal cancer, which affects the kidneys, as well as bladder, prostate and testicular cancer.” Prostate is the most common in men, with more than 16,000 men diagnosed in Australia every year.
And abdominal cancers?
“Abdominal cancers include the likes of stomach, liver and bowel cancer. Bowel cancer is one of the most common forms affecting all genders, though it is slightly more common among males,” says Ms Stoddart.
Bowel cancer was the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2017. It is estimated that it will be the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2021.
In 2017, there were 15,206 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in Australia (8173 males and 7033 females).
What are the common warning signs?
As abdominal and urological cancers affect the same areas of the body, there can be crossover in symptoms, says Ms Stoddart. This is why it’s so important to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
“Common symptoms include regular abdominal discomfort, or problems starting or stopping urinating, or only being able to pass small amounts. Blood in the urine is another key symptom. In fact, this is the most common symptom of bladder cancer.
“Of course, these symptoms can be linked to less serious conditions too,” she says.
Diarrhoea lasting more than three weeks, unusual long-lasting bloating, blood in your poo, any change in bowel habits, feeling full very quickly while eating and unintentional weight loss, should all be checked out by a GP right away too.
What’s the treatment like?
That depends on the type of cancer and the stage it’s diagnosed, but in many cases chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be used to target cancerous cells.
“The difference between the two is that chemotherapy uses medicine to kill the cancer, while radiotherapy uses radiation,” explains Ms Stoddart. “For some forms of cancer, such as in the bowel, it may also be necessary to carry out surgery to remove the cancer. This can be done alongside chemo or radiotherapy.”
What if it’s embarrassing?
New research in the UK found that more than 50 per cent of people would be put off seeing their doctor if they displayed such symptoms due to feeling embarrassed, and a similar number said they wouldn’t go due to fear of wasting their GP’s time.
But the message is to always check to be on the safe side – even if you only have one symptom – and don’t delay.
“If you notice symptoms of cancer, or anything that doesn’t feel right, it’s best to speak to your doctor straight away. In most cases, it will be nothing serious but if it is cancer it’s likely you’ll have a better prognosis if it is caught early,” says Ms Stoddart.
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and it won’t be anything your doctor hasn’t seen before. The main thing is getting you either peace of mind, or the treatment you need.”
Did you know these warning signs? Have you had a brush with cancer? Did you seek an early diagnosis? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
– With PA
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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.