A diagnosis of cancer can be devastating and shocking, particularly when the patient has exhibited little to no symptoms. It can be easy to overlook symptoms of cancer, and often they can be confused with less serious illnesses. Awareness of the possible presence of cancer during the early stages can significantly increase the chance of avoiding fighting advanced cancer.
For breast cancer regular self-examinations should be undertaken to check for changes in the breast tissue, and a lump will often be felt before any other symptoms develop. In much the same way a patient can examine other areas of the body to look and feel for signs of abnormality. If discovered early a small lump can be treated before it advances into a larger tumor. According to 2017 breast cancer statistics from the Cancer Research Institute over 1.5 million women around the world have or have had breast cancer. Many women who die from breast cancer could have avoided doing so with early detection. Though it is not 100% effective in discovering breast cancer in the early stages, doing regular self-examinations of the breasts improves a woman’s chance of survival.
Skin cancer often presents itself as itchy or tight skin and may appear red in color. This occurs as the immune system fights to break down the cancer, much as it would any unwanted bacteria. Any unexplained abnormality in the skin should be checked by a medical professional early.
While it is true that the human body undergoes many changes throughout a patient’s lifetime, being aware of which are normal and which may require seeing a doctor about is crucial. Paying close attention and noticing when something is different is something we can all do. Though some minor and other more severe illnesses may be an indication that cancer is present, it is important that we be aware of when further investigation by a medical professional is required.
Cancer Warning Signs
Unusual Weight Loss – This is perhaps the most common symptom of cancer, particularly in women with breast cancer, and patients with carcinoma. As the cancer attacks the body it prevents the liver from functioning properly, which results in unexplained weight loss. Losing weight is also a common symptom of colon cancer.
Heartburn – Chronic heartburn is typical in patients suffering with Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer. While heartburn can occur in anyone, particularly after a particularly spicy meal, when it persists and is extremely painful it could indicate the presence of cancer.
Bowel Irregularities – Any drastic change in bowel movements that continue for a month or more may be an indication of bowel cancer.
Severe Sore Throat – Though a sore throat can be nothing more than from a cold or simple infection, difficulty swallowing, severe pain and/or burning when swallowing are all indications that esophageal, lung or throat cancer may be present.
Frequent Infections and/or Fevers – A persistent fever or infection that resists usual methods of treatment could be an indication of a malignant cancerous tumor.
Unusual Tiredness – For someone who is normally in good health feeling constantly weak and tired may indicate the presence of any one of a number of cancerous conditions.
Shortness of Breath – Experiencing asthmatic-like symptoms and/or shortness of breath may be an indication that a carcinoma is causing constriction of the airways.
Persistent Cough – This is a symptom that is very easy to dismiss as nothing serious, and yet an aggravating, persistent cough may be a symptom of the presence of tumors in the lungs i.e. lung cancer.
Abdominal Bloating – The sudden onset of abdominal bloating, a constant feeling of being full and/or abdominal pain, may be an indication of the presence of ovarian cancer in women or testicular or prostate cancer in men.
Jaundice (Yellow Skin) – Patients with cancer of the liver, urinary bladder or gall bladder will often experience jaundice. Jaundice is easy to recognize as the skin takes on a yellowish hue and the whites of the eyes may also appear yellowish.
Abnormal Swelling or Lumps – Lumps and/or swelling that may indicate the presence of cancer can appear anywhere on the body, but
the most common areas are in the breasts, neck, abdomen, armpits, testicles, and groin. Though temporary swelling can occur for any number of reasons, it is not normal for it to persist.
Mole Irregularities – Most moles are of no concern provided they don’t suddenly change shape or color. If a patient notes a change in appearance it could be an indication of cancer.
Nails – Changes in the appearance and health of nails provide a good indication that something is wrong. Cancer often affects the nails so if a patient notices the nails becoming unusually pale, or black or brown patches suddenly appear they may have skin or liver cancer, or carcinoma.
Pelvic and/or Abdominal Pain – Any pain in the pelvic region or lower abdomen that persists could indicate any number of cancers, including breast, testicular, ovarian or colon cancer.
Long-term Unexplained Pain – When pain is chronic or lasts for more than a month or two it may indicate the presence of cancer. This is often bone cancer or carcinoma.
Unusual and/or Persistent Bleeding – Blood in the urine or stool may indicate the presence of cancer of the kidneys, bladder or intestine.
In menstruating women abnormal bleeding between periods could indicate cancer of the reproductive organs. This is also true for women who have gone through menopause.
As well as being aware of the symptoms of cancer there are many things we can do to help researchers come up with cures for such things as advanced prostate cancer and breast cancer. Purchase and wear a child cancer ribbon, wear the skin cancer symbol on a t-shirt, or participate in a breast cancer awareness walk. While advances are being made in the treatment of various types of cancer whatever any one person can do to help is beneficial to the future health of all patients who may have cancer.