Cancer is the diagnosis nobody wants to hear. Yet data from the UK reported in 2016 shows that the country had around 363,000 new cases annually, with around half that number of cancer fatalities reported for the same period. Cancer accounts for over a quarter of all deaths in the country, and it’s estimated that 1 in 2 people born after 1960 would be diagnosed with a form of cancer over the course of their lives.

Facing this grim outlook, though, there are reasons to be optimistic. About 135,000 reported cases each year could be prevented – nearly half. Trends show that the rate of survival over the last 40 years has doubled. And survival rates are generally highest under the age of 40, or up to middle age for some types of cancers.

The key to successful treatment is detecting the disease as soon as possible. Here are some measures you can take to help with a better, early diagnosis.

Be informed

As the patient, you play a crucial role in the process. It helps to have a better awareness of the different types of cancers and their symptoms; you can formulate a picture of any symptoms you are currently experiencing, and line them up with any suspicions you have matching a certain type of cancer.

Naturally, the accurate diagnosis will be carried out by your doctor, so why is this important? It allows you to prepare a list of relevant questions, and have a comprehensive reference of your symptoms, family history, activities and habits. Your doctor will be able to use this information to better read the situation within the limited amount of time you both have together during a given consultation period.

Get screened

doctor with patient

For every kind of cancer across the board, early screening is the route that leads to the highest proportion of early-stage detection. Consult with your doctor, at least once a year, regarding any recommendations they may have for specific screenings based on your history. Age, gender, genetics and lifestyle all play a part in increasing your risk for certain types of cancer.

Screening programmes allow the early detection of cancer prior to symptoms manifesting – and at this early stage, diagnosis can greatly increase both the chances of survival and the quality of life afforded thereafter by the treatment required.

Consider private

Consultation with a private GP can bring several benefits, mostly coming down to one factor: it’s faster. In Birmingham, for instance, 2016-17 numbers attribute 68 deaths to system-wide or organisation issues within the NHS. Termed ‘serious incidents’, these fatalities could have been prevented if care had been given sooner.

With a private GP, you’ll have speedy access to the full array of tests and results. You skip the wait time and get to spend longer with your doctor discussing your history and symptoms. This can lead to earlier and more accurate diagnosis – and in the case of cancer, early diagnosis can easily spell the difference between success or failure in treatment.

In the modern battle against cancer, even our best doctors and the healthcare system as a whole can be overwhelmed at times. Being proactive as a patient is a way for you to take care of factors that are under your control, get a speedy diagnosis, and immediately take the necessary steps to get better and stay healthy.