As we grow older, our chance of developing a number of health conditions increases, and although there are preventative measures you can take to safeguard yourself, it is still wise to have regular check-ups.
Your risk of developing certain conditions, particularly cancers, will depend on a number of factors, including your gender, lifestyle, family medical history, and even your job.
As such, we have put together this list of some of the main cancer risks for adults and how you can be checked to try and spot early signs of the disease, help prevent them developing further and get it treated as soon as possible.
Breast cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the UK, with one in eight women being diagnosed at some point in their lifetime. One way to help minimise the risk of developing the condition is by regularly checking for lumps that, if found, can then be checked by your GP or a health professional. To help identify the disease at the earliest possible stage, mammograms are also carried out to help spot any internal changes in the make-up of the breast, even before visible changes occur. Most women are invited for breast screening around their 50th birthday and then every three years thereafter, although anyone can request a mammogram with their GP if they feel changes or discomfort in their breast. Two-thirds of women diagnosed with breast cancer will go on to survive for 20 years or more, but regular screening can help to spot the disease as early as possible and boost the chances of effective treatment and survival.
Bowel cancer screening
Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK and almost half of patients die from the disease within 10 years of diagnosis. The majority of cases are in those who are aged over 70, and although screening does not diagnose the disease, it does flag up potential risk factors. It is estimated that 54 per cent of bowel cancer cases are preventable and cases are increasing in incidence due to unhealthy diets. NHS screening is offered to all men and women aged between 60 and 74 every two years where an at home kit is sent through the post to collect a stool sample. After the sample has been sent back, researchers can flag up potential issues and recommend treatment or dietary changes to help mitigate the risk.
Although most cancers are more common in older people, cervical cancer is actually more frequently diagnosed in women under the age of 45. Screening for the disease can help to detect abnormalities that could lead to cervical cancer, making it one of the most preventable cancers. In fact, it is estimated that every single case of cervical cancer could be avoided if women were frequently screened. Currently, all women aged between 25 and 64 are eligible for screening every three to five years and since the introduction of the screening programme, diagnosis rates have decreased significantly, as abnormalities are spotted and treatment is given.
People should keep an eye on their skin at all times during their life to monitor new moles and the growth of existing ones, but as we become older it becomes even more important. Regular skin checks can be a good way to help keep track of mole placement and mutations and help to identify any that are becoming sore, red or larger – the early signs of malignant melanoma. It is estimated that 86% of cases in the UK are preventable through sensible protection measures, as detailed in our recent blog on how to stay sun safe, but having regular checks is still recommended. Around 90 per cent of people diagnosed with malignant melanoma will live for more than ten years, but carrying out regular self-checks and booking an appointment with your GP in the event of an abnormality can be an effective preventative measure.
Eye cancer is one of the few forms of the disease where incidence is increasing in the UK, with diagnosis rates rising by a third since the 1970s. It is possible to spot the signs of eye cancer and other diseases, ranging from glaucoma and macular degeneration to diabetes, by having regular eye checks. Everyone over the age of 60 is entitled to a free eye check every two years, although it is recommended to undergo testing more regularly to help spot the symptoms of disease before they develop and be referred for appropriate treatment or vision correction. Regular appointments with your optician can also help to spot a number of vision problems and minimise the risk of eventual sight loss.
Approximately 21 people, every day in the UK, are diagnosed with oral cancer, with almost half of these cases occurring in those over the age of 65. The risk of developing the condition can be minimised significantly by not smoking or drinking, which are the main risk factors for oral cancer. However, your dentist can also play a key role in helping to identify the symptoms or possible signs of the disease during your regular check-ups. As with other dental issues, your dentist can help to treat any problems at the earliest possible stage, before they worsen. Your dentist will decide how often they need to see you. It could be as short as three months, but if you have no current problems, your dentist might not need to see you for up to two years.
If you are concerned about any changes in your body or symptoms you have developed, then please book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible.
Regular check-ups can help to identify the signs of cancers, diseases and other health conditions early and increase the chances of overcoming the disease, no matter what your age. From just £2.52 per week a Sovereign Health Care cash plan can help towards the cost of eye tests, dental treatment and check-ups such as health screening, hospital consultant fees and diagnostic tests, plus much more. To find out more, visit