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Accurate information and increased awareness and knowledge about cancer can empower all of us to recognise early warning signs, make informed choices about our health and counter our own fears and misconceptions about cancer.


Know your body: early detection saves lives

Many cancers show early signs and symptoms, indicating that something isn’t quite right. These include breast, cervical, colorectal, skin, oral and some childhood cancers. This is important to know, because finding cancer early almost always makes it is easier to treat or even cure, which means improved chances of survival and quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer. What’s more, recognising early warning signs of cancer is cost-effective and, in many cases, doesn’t require any specialist technologies. Each of us can be empowered with the right information to know what’s normal for our bodies and recognise unusual changes – and importantly, seek professional medical help promptly.


What can we do?

  • As individuals, we can teach ourselves and the people close to us – including parents, caregivers, teachers and others in our communities - about the common signs and symptoms.

  • Health professionals need to understand the signs and symptoms to avoid misdiagnosis and understand and encourage the value of early detection in their patients.

  • Policymakers have a critical role to play. Governments can develop strategies to increase awareness and education as well as integrate early detection and screening into national health systems.


Fast fact: Cancer that is diagnosed at an early stage is more likely to be treated successfully. Almost all women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage, for instance, survive their disease for at least five years1.


Screening for cancer

Even if you don’t have any signs or symptoms of cancer and may appear otherwise healthy, screening for some types of cancer can detect signs of developing it. These include bowel, breast, cervical, colorectal (colon) and lung cancers. 


Myths, misinformation and stigma

Cancer understandably causes fear. However, misinformation, misconceptions and stigma surrounding cancer – including that there is no cure – create a negative cycle that can confirm our fears. These fears and misperceptions can prevent us from screening or consulting for early symptoms, or to delay or avoid treatment and care altogether. A late diagnosis and delayed treatment generally result in worse outcomes, which in turn perpetuates the myths and misconception of cancer being incurable or untreatable.


What can we do?

  • Access accurate cancer information: By being informed, you can counter your misconceptions and reduce your fears about cancer. Through knowledge, awareness and understanding, you are empowered to challenge negative beliefs and attitudes in others that perpetuate myths about cancer.

  • Use your voice: By talking, we can help to reduce fear, stigma and discrimination, shift perceptions and strengthen support for people with cancer.

  • Understand different cultural beliefs: Understanding different cultural beliefs and practices regarding health and cancer is essential in developing appropriate responses, changing attitudes and dispelling common myths.

  • Empower individuals and communities: Governments, communities, employers and media all have a role to play to challenge perceptions about cancer and create a culture where people living with cancer do not face discrimination.


1. Cancer Research UK. Why early diagnosis is important