16 April 2024

‘Early diagnosis is the reason I’m still here’

PRODUCED IN ASSOCIATION WITH HM GOVERNMENT

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When 49-year-old Shamilla Mirza found a pea-shaped lump in her breast, she sought help from her GP – who helped her get an early diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer.

If something in your body doesn’t feel right, you should contact your GP practice straight away. It could be nothing, but it’s important to remember that finding cancer early could save your life.

After she spotted the lump, Shamilla’s GP referred her to the breast clinic for tests. The mother-of-two was shocked to be diagnosed with breast cancer but says the support of her family gave her the strength to face the disease.

Shamilla had a mastectomy (an operation where breast tissue is removed) and breast reconstruction, followed by chemotherapy treatment.

Looking back, she says: “I cannot thank the NHS or my family enough for giving me the courage to deal with cancer. I know my early diagnosis and treatment is the reason why I’m still here for my family, particularly my sons Zakir and Zain.”

In 2019, Shamilla unveiled a special park bench – marking her recovery from cancer. It salutes the scientists, doctors and nurses who are making game-changing progress in tackling the disease.

The inscription on her bench reads: “Shamilla Mirza loved sitting here… and still does thanks to advances in cancer research.”

Cancer signs and symptoms come in different guises, so it’s vital that we are all aware of any new or unexplained changes in our bodies.

To rule out cancer, your GP may refer you for tests. It’s probably nothing serious, but finding cancer early makes it more treatable and can save lives.

Whatever the result, your NHS is here for you – as Shamilla knows so well.

‘Some symptoms are less obvious than others’

“Cancer symptoms and early warning signs can be very varied with some being less obvious than others,” says NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Cancer, Professor Peter Johnson (pictured).

“But what’s important to know is what is normal for you, so you can spot any changes. If you have any concerns or if something in your body doesn’t feel quite right, you should contact your GP practice. It could be nothing, but diagnosing cancer earlier could save your life.

“This year, we’re highlighting the symptoms associated with blood cancers. Blood cancers are the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK with over 41,000 people diagnosed every year. These symptoms can be quite common – such as breathlessness, night sweats, or feeling tired when you’re not sure why – but if something doesn’t feel right for you, please contact your local GP practice. Finding cancer earlier saves lives.”

Contact your GP practice if something in your body doesn’t feel right or you experience any of the symptoms below:

  • Breathlessness
  • Frequent infections
  • Unexplained night sweats
  • Unexpected or unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in your pee (even just once)
  • Blood in your poo, which may look red or black
  • An unexplained lump

For three weeks or more:

  • Tummy trouble, such as discomfort or diarrhoea
  • Unexplained pain or discomfort
  • Feeling tired and unwell and not sure why
  • A cough
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Unusual, pale or greasy poo

It’s probably nothing serious, but finding cancer early makes it more treatable and can save lives.

For more information go to nhs.uk/cancersymptoms