World Cancer Day: The 3 Most Common Cancers and How To Spot Their Symptoms

The 4th February 2023 marks World Cancer Day. 

At zeno we focus on whole-person health and we recognise the importance of being aware of health issues that are around us at all times. We wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the three most common cancers for men and women, how to spot the signs and symptoms and where to go for help. Early diagnosis of cancer can often improve recovery rates, as it means patients can receive treatment when there is a better chance of achieving a complete cure, so it’s really important to be aware of changes in your body and seek advice from a medical professional for further support and diagnosis.

Which Cancers are the most common?

The three most common cancers for men are prostate, lung, and bowel cancers. These cancers account for an estimated 43% of all cancers diagnosed in men (data from the National Cancer Institute). For women, the three most common cancers are breast, lung, and bowel, and according to the National Cancer Institute, they account for an estimated 50% of all new cancer diagnoses in women. Read on to find out more about each of these cancers and how to check for signs and symptoms.

The Most Common Cancer in Men: Prostate Cancer

According to Prostate Cancer UK, More than 52,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year – that’s 140 men every day. Prostate cancer can be difficult to check for early on as it does not usually cause any symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra). That being said, there are symptoms you can look out for; according to the NHS, symptoms of prostate cancer can include:

  • Needing to pee more frequently, often during the night
  • Needing to rush to the toilet
  • Difficulty in starting to pee (hesitancy)
  • Straining or taking a long time while peeing
  • Weak flow
  • Feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully
  • Blood in urine or blood in semen

These symptoms do not always mean you have prostate cancer, but it is important to get checked out. Men’s prostates can get larger as they get older because of a non-cancerous condition called benign prostate enlargement, so this could be the reason behind these symptoms too. If you do have any of the symptoms listed above, book in for an appointment with your GP to get checked out.

Further support is also available from the charity Prostate Cancer UK, here’s how you can get in touch with them: Helpline: 0800 0748383

The Most Common Cancer in Women: Breast Cancer

According to Breast Cancer UK, there are ~56,000 new breast cancer cases in the UK, making it the nation’s most common cancer, accounting for 15% of all new cancer cases. It is more common in women who are aged 50 and over, and there’s a good chance of recovery if it’s detected at an early stage. It’s really important to check your breasts regularly, and visit your GP if you notice any changes.

Breast cancer can have several symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue. Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but it’s always best to have them checked by a doctor.

According to the NHS, you should also see a GP if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
  • Discharge from either of your nipples, which may be streaked with blood a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
  • Dimpling on the skin of your breasts a rash on or around your nipple a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer or if you’d like more information about treatments, there are several charities available to help you.

Macmillan Cancer Support Helpline: 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) Website:

Breast Cancer UK: UK cancer charity that focuses on all aspects of breast cancer prevention, includes resources, check your breasts leaflet and video, lifestyle support.

Breast Cancer Care (specific support also available for partners of people with breast cancer) Helpline: 0808 800 6000 Text phone: 18001 0808 800 6000 (Mon to Fri: 9.00 am to 4.00 pm; Sat: 9.00 am to 1.00 pm) Email: Website:

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer for both men and women. There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages, however, the symptoms of lung cancer develop as the condition progresses.

The main symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away after 2 or 3 weeks
  • A long-standing cough that gets worse
  • Chest infections that keep coming back
  • Coughing up blood
  • An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • Persistent breathlessness
  • Persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss

Less common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Changes in the appearance of your fingers, such as becoming more curved or their ends becoming larger
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or pain when swallowing
  • Wheezing
  • A hoarse voice
  • Swelling of your face or neck
  • Persistent chest or shoulder pain

If you have any of these, you should see a GP. Further support is also available from the charities below:

British Lung Foundation The British Lung Foundation gives information on all types of lung conditions and runs support groups across the country. Helpline: 03000 030 555 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) Website:

Macmillan Cancer Support Helpline: 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) Website:

Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer for men and women, and starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Bowel cancer might not cause symptoms right away, but if it does, it may cause one or more of these symptoms:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent symptoms that worry you, the sooner you can have your symptoms checked the better your chances will be of receiving effective treatment. We’ve included some charities below who support bowel cancer patients too.

Bowel Cancer UK Online community support:

Marie Curie UK Helpline: 0800 090 2309 (8am-6pm Monday to Friday and 11am-5pm on Saturdays) Website:

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