New Year, New Decade, New You

Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is starting the new decade by encouraging everyone to make a few small changes to benefit you and your family, improve your health and help lower your risk of cancer.

In Northern Ireland over 13,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year. However, many cancers can be prevented, so there’s no better time to make a switch to a healthier lifestyle.

Most people who make New Year resolutions break them before Valentine’s Day – often because it’s all about denying yourself and trying to do too much too soon. Rather than focus all your energies and trying to turn your life around in January, why not ring in the changes gradually throughout the year?

Here are Cancer Focus NI’s handy hints and tips for each month:

 January – Focus on Nutrition.  Be a healthy weight. For most of us, as the amount of fat in the body decreases, so does the chance of certain cancers.

Eat fruit, vegetables, grains and pulses. Limit foods high in sugar, salt or fat, avoid processed meat and limit red meat.

February – Increase your Physical Activity.  Try to take 75 minutes vigorous physical activity or 150 minutes moderate activity each week. Do things you enjoy – take the stairs, walk to your local shop or go for a brisk walk during your lunch break.

Cancer Focus NI is the official charity of the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon in May – you could enter the marathon, fun run, relay or eight mile walk. It’s a great way to exercise and you could raise sponsorship money for Cancer Focus NI at the same time. There’s also the Belfast half marathon in September to work towards.

March – Stop Smoking.  Stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and lower your risk of cancer. Plan ahead and you’ll be more successful, so make a note of No Smoking Month in March.

Smokers can greatly increase their chances of success if they use a stop smoking service and tips such as those provided on

 April – Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.  Stick to those New Year resolutions of a healthy diet, increased physical activity and no smoking and you’ll lower your risk of bowel cancer. If you’re between 60 and 74 use the bowel cancer screening kit when it’s offered.

 May – Take Care in the Sun.  Skin cancer is the most common cancer in this country. Avoid over exposure to ultra violet radiation from the sun or sunbeds.  Seek shade, cover up and use sun protection.

June – Men’s Health.  The Cancer Focus NI Man Van visits workplaces, leisure centres and sports clubs everywhere, raising awareness of the positive impact that small changes can make to physical and mental health.

The charity’s Male Quick Fit team check weight and body mass and give tailored advice to encourage men to set their own goals for a healthier future.

 July – Limit Alcohol.  If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake. Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention.

August – Early Detection.  Cancer can be more effectively treated if it is detected early so keep a check on any changes to your body. These may include:

– loss of appetite

– difficulty swallowing

– extreme tiredness

– unexplained weight loss

– persistent cough

– change in bowel habits

– changes to a mole

September – Encourage your Children to make Healthy Lifestyle Choices.

Start the new school term with a spring in your step and encourage children to do more physical activity by cycling or walking to school. Many lifelong eating habits are formed in early childhood so pack a healthy lunchbox with plenty of fruit and veg.

Ensure your children take part in the vaccination programme for human papilloma virus (HPV).

October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Cancer Focus NI encourages women to check their breasts regularly.

A lump may be the most commonly recognised early symptom of breast cancer but other symptoms can include:

  • Any dent, puckering or dimpling of your breasts
  • Thickening under the skin of your breasts or armpit
  • Changes in size or shape of the breast
  • Veins which stand out more than usual
  • Any change in the position of your nipples – pulled inwards or pointing in a different direction
  • Any discharge or bleeding from your nipples
  • A rash on your nipple
  • Any discomfort or pain in your breasts that is different from normal
  • Any new change in sensation in your breasts

If you are between 50-70 years of age, don’t forget to take up your breast screening invitation. If you’re over 70, contact your GP or local screening centre for an appointment.

November – Take Care Using Harmful Substances

Protect yourself in your workplace or home and follow health and safety instructions.

December – Celebrate Your Successes.  Congratulations – you’ve made several positive changes, taking cancer prevention into your own hands.

Reflect on the changes you’ve made and the rewards that will last a lifetime!

For more information visit Talk to your doctor early if you have any health concerns and if you’re worried about cancer, call the Cancer Focus NI Nurse Line on 0800 783 3339 (Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm) or email