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Nurses should be aware of the early symptoms of cancer

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The importance of early cancer diagnosis has received considerable government attention. One reason for this focus is the UK's cancer rates (in 2011, 331,487 people were affected by cancer), coupled with evidence that individuals who present late have poorer survival outcomes.1

The 20 most common cancers are shown in Figure 1, while the top 10 cancers for each gender are shown in Figures 2 and 3.

Primary care nurses have opportunities to educate patients about cancer and form an important part of the drive to diagnose cancer early.

Primary prevention

Half of cancers may be preventable,2 so the aim of any primary prevention strategy is to reduce the risk of the healthy population developing cancer. This includes identifying risk factors for individuals, providing support to high-risk individuals to encourage behaviour modification, genetic screening and the implementation of programmes such as smoking cessation, healthy eating, exercise, and alcohol awareness.

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