Cancer awareness: Don’t be scared of the diagnosis

A cancer diagnosis was the last thing Stafford resident Paul Giles expected at 57 years old. After a long career with the RAF, Paul was a keen sportsman who kept himself fit and healthy.  Even after leaving the Forces would think nothing of cycling 30 miles at a time.

“I’d never seen the inside of a hospital before.  I never smoked, drank only moderately and exercised five or six times a week – I was in the gym right up until the night before I was diagnosed – but all that is never going to prevent you from getting something like cancer.  Cancer takes no prisoners,” said Paul.

Since retired from the RAF, Paul, who lives in Stafford, recalls how he was at work, again in the logistics industry, and was working flat out in the run up to Christmas when he realised something was wrong. He visited his GP after noticing a lump on his neck, and was referred to Stafford (now the County) Hospital, though his GP thought there was nothing serious in the lump, but referred him to hospital as a precaution.  Following tests, it was diagnosed as a branchial cyst. “Of course, I went home and Googled what that was and found that they usually occur in younger people,” said Paul.

He underwent a series of scans, fluid was removed from the cyst and a biopsy was taken of the base of his tongue, his tonsils were removed, as well as lymph nodes, and while no actual tumour was found, it was discovered that he had squamous cell cancer.  In all, he had five operations and underwent radiotherapy treatment for six weeks.

Paul talks about the importance of early diagnosis:

“Don’t be scared of the diagnosis, your body will let you know if something is wrong, it is important to seek early advice if something doesn’t feel right.

People are afraid of the word cancer and this can make some people too afraid to address it. Cancer incidence is rising and we have to be realistic about this. It can happen to anyone. It’s not a club I want to be in, but when you’re in it you have to get on with it, and this is what people have to embrace.

Diagnosing cancer early will give you more options for treatment. If you have symptoms or changes that are causing concern you must seek medical advice. Early diagnosis is very important for survival. The right mind-set is needed for survival. Don’t think it’s all doom and gloom, this is not helpful. People survive, it is not a fatality anymore. You need to be in control of the circumstances and the longer you leave it the less control you will have.”

If you notice any changes to your body's normal processes or unusual, unexplained symptoms, this can sometimes be an early sign of cancer. If you notice any of the following, please contact your GP:

  • a lump that suddenly appears on your body
  • unexplained bleeding
  • changes to your bowel habits

In many cases your symptoms won't be related to cancer and will be caused by other, non-cancerous health conditions. For more information about cancer; symptons, treatment and support available, please visit the NHS Choices website.

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