Cancer can hit anyone anytime, no matter what his or her age. And while cancer still doesn’t have a cure, the chances of recovery if it is detected early on (and hasn’t spread significantly) is significantly higher. It is therefore important to know the common symptoms of cancer, so that one can approach a healthcare or medical professional for help immediately in case one experiences a relevant symptom – especially if it is worrisome and persistent. While it’s true that symptoms of cancer, on their own, are not sufficient for a 100% accurate diagnosis, they can provide vital cues and clues.
Cancer can affect any part of our body and can bring on a variety of symptoms. Let us understand some of the signs and symptoms of cancer that can facilitate early detection and diagnosis:
Some cancers – like that of the brain and bone – can bring on pain that can be severe in intensity and last for days. Women in particular should look out for pelvic and abdominal pain. Aches and pain are notorious for being ‘late indicators’ of cancer, so it’s vital that one consults a doctor immediately if the pain doesn’t subside after a couple of days.
Bleeding spots on your skin that show no signs of healing or improvement (even after standard medication) can be indicative of skin cancer. Bumps, marks and moles on the skin (in various parts of the body) can also be a sign of a cancer that’s brewing.
Changing conditions in the skin can be indicative signs of cancer, and not just of skin cancer. So if the skin starts growing hair, turns red or yellow, appears darkened, itches constantly or sports rashes that cannot be explained, it can be detection signs of kidney, liver or ovarian cancer.
Inexplicable and steady loss in body weight is one of the common symptoms of cancer. Records suggest that nearly 50% of people affected with cancer can lose significant amounts of body weight by the time they are diagnosed.
A subliminal onset of cancer often brings with it a consistent feeling of fatigue. An example of this is Leukemia. The person affected will feel ‘worn out’ all day. The loss in weight experienced during cancer (discussed in an earlier point) can add to the fatigue. The tell-tale indication to notice here is that taking rest will not help cure the tiredness.
In certain cases of ‘blood cancer’ – for example lymphoma – one may suffer from fever. The fever can be high or stubborn, refusing to go away – sometimes, even after weeks of medication.
Normally caused by GERD, gas or other gastro-intestinal disorders and curable with medication – heartburn can be indicative of throat or stomach cancer as well, especially if it happens frequently or persists for long periods.
Trouble swallowing can happen due to various reasons, but if it persists or recurs with abnormal frequency – and in particular if it is accompanied by vomiting or weight loss – it may be a symptom of stomach or throat cancer.
Swellings and lumps anywhere in the body (except in the breasts when it may indicate a possibility of breast cancer in women) can be a symptom of swellings or tenderness in the lymph nodes. They are usually a sign of an infection – no more -but in certain cases may indicate leukemia and lymphoma as well.
While bloody stool is usually a fallout of infection or hemorrhoids, it can also be symptomatic of cancer of the colon. Blood in the urine, on the other hand, can be an indication of bladder or kidney cancer.
Apart from the universal detection signs of cancer mentioned above, there are certain specific manifestations that men in particular should be watchful about. The most common cancers in men are prostate, colorectal (affecting the bowel, colon or rectum) and lung cancer. Warning indicators specific to men are:
• Difficulty in urination which is brought upon by a swollen prostate and manifests itself as pain during urination, the need to ‘go’ frequently, difficulty in starting urination, leaking & dripping, a burning sensation during the act or blood in the urine.
• Irregularities in bowel conditions such as persistent constipation or diarrhea (blood in the stool is not uncommon in these cases) that can stretch for a month or even longer.
• A coarse, chronic cough (blood can accompany this) that won’t subside even after 4 weeks.
• Fluctuations in the anatomy of testicles – Such as a change in size, heaviness or lumps – could be indicative of testicular cancer.
The most common types of cancer in women are those of the lung, breast and colorectal (affecting the bowel, colon or rectum) – along with cancer of the vagina, vulva, uterus, cervix and endometrium. Some tell-tale cancer symptoms for women can be:
• Pain & bloating in the belly – manifest in a feeling of gas or cramps. If this continues for weeks without any chances of letting up, it can be indications of cancer of the ovary, colon, breast, pancreas, uterus or of the gastro-intestinal region.
• A feeling of satiety or fullness in the tummy (as can happen during ovarian cancer) or nausea, dizziness and indigestion (as can happen during other forms of cancer) can lead to a loss or fluctuation in appetite. If the condition doesn’t show any signs of disappearing, it’s good to consult a professional immediately.
• Changes in the breasts – in cases of breast cancer – such as lumps, a change in size, discharge from the nipples, dimples & puckerings on the breast skin, redness & tenderness in the nipples or skin, and spots around the nipples.
• Discharges and bleeding, which can take place when Endometrial cancer (that is, cancer of the uterus lining) sets in – causing vaginal discharge and bleeding to happen between periods or even after menopause.
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