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Andrea Adams, Police College Health clinic nurse manager.

Health & Wellbeing: Don't ignore embarrassing symptoms

Advice from Police College Health Clinic nurse manager Andrea Adams.


I’ve been reading Inspector Becky Hill’s account in the Police Wellness Hub of her journey to complete the PCT.

One of her blog posts looked at “the power of habits – automatic behaviours that save us a tremendous amount of time and energy and allow us to divert our attention to other things”.

This can be applied to many areas of life, particularly your health, and one habit I see that adversely affects health is “ignoring”.

A patient will present with a health concern that’s progressed to needing medical help and when asked why they didn’t do something sooner, the answer often is: “I was ignoring it, hoping it would just get better.”

Our bodies are incredibly complex and clever. They give us clues when things aren’t quite right and one of the healthiest habits we can develop is getting routine health screenings.

For women, it might be regular mammograms after the age of 45 and three-yearly cervical smear tests.

Women have a 95 per cent chance of surviving breast cancer for more than five years if cancer is detected early by a mammogram.

Other signs of breast cancer involve nipple discharge, skin puckering and discolouration. I’ve seen women presenting with advanced cancer because they had been too embarrassed to talk about the changes in their body.

For men, a prostate check from age 40 onwards is important, and a heart check can be done any time, providing advice about what can be done to lower overall risk and improve your heart age.

Other symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored include:

  • Newly developed lumps in our stomach or groin – possible hernias. Don’t wait till they become a lot bigger to get them seen.
  • A unusual discharge from the vagina or penis, or any kind of rash, pain or dysfunction of the genitals. It could be early treatable cancerous changes, especially for females (hence the importance of the cervical smear) or it could be an STI (sexually transmitted infection) or a simple bacterial infection. Again, all treatable in the early stages, but if ignored they can lead to worse outcomes.
  • Incontinence could be a sign of a urine or kidney infection, prostate issues, pregnancy or bladder muscles issue
    – all very manageable in the early stages.
  • A racing heart rate or increase in palpitations can represent a very treatable abnormal heart arrhythmia, too much caffeine or absolutely nothing to 
  • worry about.
  • Shortness of breath. People might think they are unfit, but this could be a sign of an undiagnosed respiratory issue such as asthma or CORD (chronic obstructive respiratory disorder) or a potential heart issue, such as heart failure, which can be treated.
  • Weight gain. People think it’s just their diet, but it can be a thyroid or hormone issue.
  • Increased thirst, weight loss and skin sores that aren’t healing could be signs of diabetes for which early treatment has the best outcomes


So, don’t ignore anything, get screened and don’t be embarrassed to check up on your important body bits to make sure all is well.

We’ve seen it all before and, more often than not, a visit to your health centre will put your mind at rest.

Conquering PCT fears

Inspector Becky Hill’s focus on healthy habits has been reaping rewards as she continues to build her physical and mental fitness.

Becky is the health promotions advisory manager with Police’s Safer People Team. Having previously held a range of operational frontline roles, she now loves being involved with promoting health to staff, encouraging them to get motivated, on and off duty.

But there was always one niggling aspect of her role that she says finally got the better of her. “Here I was encouraging staff to get fit and healthy, when, inside, I knew I had always dreaded doing the PCT, therefore I wanted to conquer this,” she says.

And, even though at her rank she doesn’t have to have a current PCT, she believes in leading by example. “I wanted to live up to the Safer People motto – Fit for work, fit for life.”That was the start of a 12-week journey to becoming PCT fit, which she has shared through a blog on the Police Wellness Hub, including the anxiety she has always felt about the test.

Becky explains how she was able to tackle her fears and come up with a plan to change her mindset.

The posts include advice from Police physical education officers, discussing common fears, such as failure, perceived judgment from peers and the potential of becoming non-deployable.

Covid-19 restrictions meant Becky’s PCT, scheduled for August 12, had to be postponed. At the time of going to print she was waiting for a new date to be set.


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