Cancer is a terrible disease of which there are over 200 types, and many thousands of people are diagnosed with some form of it every year. Very few people have not been affected by cancer in some way, whether it was suffered by a family member, a friend or perhaps from personal experience. It is estimated that there will be more than 1,735 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in the US in 2018 according to the American Cancer Society. That’s an average of around 4,750 cases a day.
However, over the years, through constant research, there have been vast improvements in clinical techniques meaning that survival rates are better now than ever before. For example, breast cancer and prostate cancer are 99% survivable when caught at an early stage. But there is a long way to go.
Fortunately, there is now much more awareness of the disease. At one time there was a stigma about cancer and it was almost hidden as if it was something to be ashamed of, or that it was self-inflicted. But events which raise money for research such as the Relay for Life, Coaches vs Cancer and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month help to educate people and to make them more aware. The TV show, The Big C, also tried to highlight the issues of living with cancer, not just for the sufferer but for their family as well.
Reducing the Risks
Some families are genetically predisposed to suffer from cancer and the risk-carrying genes can be inherited from a parent. This doesn’t mean that every child will go on to develop the disease as it can skip a generation, but it does increase the risk. Having two or more close relatives who had the same type of cancer and developed it at a young age (under 50) points to there being a faulty gene. If you think that you have a strong family history of cancer, discuss it with your family doctor and they may refer you for genetic testing to identify your risk. If you are at high risk you can then be regularly monitored or recommended for preventative treatment.
It is estimated by experts that four in ten cases of cancer could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Everybody knows (or should) that smoking is the number one cause of cancer. Most of us will have heard tales of someone who smoked all their lives and lived to a ripe old age. But they are by far the exception to the rule.
Far fewer people know that being overweight is the second biggest cancer risk. Around one in twenty cases of cancer are related to obesity, most commonly affecting the bowel, breasts, kidneys and uterus among others. For those who are obese, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can greatly reduce your risk.
Everyone can lower their chance of getting cancer by eating healthily with plenty of fruit and vegetables and less processed foods. Alcohol is a well-known cause of cancer and, if you drink, reducing your intake can lower the risk. A “healthy” tan has long been seen as an enhancing feature, especially on your hard-earned vacation. But overexposure to UV rays can cause skin cancer so you should take steps to protect yourself in the sun. And that doesn’t just apply to those with pale skin tones as all skin colors can be affected by the disease.
Early diagnosis of cancer is crucial for a positive prognosis. If not discovered until the later stages it is harder to treat and prevent from spreading. Every woman should be checking for lumps in her breasts and men for testicular lumps or changes.
Regular screening is available for some types of cancer when certain ages are reached and you should take advantage of this to help in the detection of the disease. Check the American Cancer Society guidelines.
Diagnosis of Cancer
Being told that you have cancer is one of the most awful scenarios. Even if it an easily treatable form of the disease, the word “cancer” has terrifying connotations. You can experience a whole range of emotions: shock, fear, anger or depression. It is often the beginning of a long road to recovery or, in the worst case, you may suddenly have to face up to your own mortality.
The doctors will know the best course of treatment and generally you have to go along with what they tell you. But it is very important to have someone to talk to about how you feel. It can be a member of the family or a close friend. Sometimes it can be better to speak to someone who is emotionally detached from the situation, such as a counsellor.
What if You Are Misdiagnosed?
Failing to detect cancer early or being misdiagnosed can have devastating consequences. Doctors are not infallible and cancer misdiagnosis can happen for a number of reasons. Symptoms could be mistaken for a less serious condition; scan results can be misinterpreted or laboratory tests might get mixed up. A delay in identifying cancer can lead to the disease progressing to a more advanced phase and it could spread to other parts of the body.
It can be as bad being mistakenly diagnosed with cancer where it doesn’t exist resulting in unnecessary and possibly life changing treatment. There have been cases where patients have had limbs amputated or a breast removed, only to later discover there had been a mistake.
Coping with the effects of cancer is incredibly difficult under any circumstances but knowing that your situation is worse because of a clinical error makes it even harder to deal with.
If you are the victim of a cancer misdiagnosis, or you have lost a loved one because of it, you should take legal advice on how to make a clinical negligence claim in the UK. The amount of compensation you will be entitled to will depend on the individual circumstances of your case.