World Cancer Day: Be aware of the signs and symptoms

world cancer day

Today [4 February] is World Cancer Day and the Public Health Agency (PHA) is highlighting the signs and symptoms of cancer and encouraging people to seek medical advice without delay if they are concerned.

Statistics show there were on average around 9,400 people diagnosed with cancer each year between 2013-17 (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).

 Dr Louise Herron, Consultant in Public Health at the PHA, said that the earlier cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chances of survival as treatment is more likely to be successful.

 “It can be difficult to talk about cancer, but by discussing it openly and making sure that we, and those around us, are aware of the key signs and symptoms, we can improve outcomes if cancer develops. It is important for everyone to be aware of warning signs which need to be investigated to ensure quick diagnosis and treatment.”

 Some examples of symptoms are:

  • coughing up blood or blood-stained phlegm (sputum);
  • a persistent cough (more than three weeks);
  • a mole which begins to change, such as getting larger or inflamed, or developing irregular edges;
  • blood in a bowel motion;
  • starting to bleed again after the menopause;
  • mouth ulcers that have not healed after three weeks;
  • food regularly seeming to stick on the way down when you swallow. 

If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your GP. There are many things that people can do to reduce the risk of cancer, such as:

  • If you smoke, stop – visit for tips to help you quit;
  • Keep alcohol consumption within safe limits – has more information on this;
  • Take regular exercise and aim to keep your weight within the recommended BMI range – has more information on simple steps that can help reduce weight;
  • Avoid over exposure to ultraviolet radiation from either sunbeds or the sun – use sunscreen, seek shade, wear sun glasses and a hat. Check your skin regularly for any changes.  See for more information.

 “I would also encourage everyone to go for screening when it’s offered to them,” said Dr Herron.

 “Northern Ireland has three excellent cancer screening programmes in place to help detect the first signs of cancer. These are the cervical, breast and bowel cancer screening programmes.”

 For more information on Northern Ireland screening programmes visit

 The PHA has developed a comprehensive website at which provides information about cancer signs and symptoms, explains what to do if you’re concerned, and signposts to recommended sources of support or further information.


Notes to the editor

Statistics show that there were on average 9,401 (4,691 male, 4,710 female) people diagnosed with cancer each year during 2013-2017 (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer),884081,en.pdf