Am I Sick? Common Symptoms Of Cancer You Need To KnowJason Siddall
Right from the start, it’s important to stress that, unfortunately, most early symptoms of cancer are also symptoms of many other, harmless, conditions. Most cancers don’t have exclusive symptoms that point conclusively to the disease. This is why it’s often difficult to pinpoint cancer in its very early stages. In addition, cancer is often not symptomatic at all until it is quite advanced. This is why regular screening is so important – particularly if you have a family history of cancer, or have high-risk lifestyle habits, such as smoking, frequent high sun exposure, or heavy alcohol use.
The intention of this article is not to panic you into thinking you might have cancer when you simply have indigestion. We do, however, want to make you aware of symptoms that could indicate cancer so that you don’t ignore something important. Remember that a significant percentage of newly-diagnosed cancers can be cured if detected early.
Symptoms Of Cancer
It’s simply not feasible to run to the doctor every time you have a cough, for example. But, if certain symptoms occur or persist, then you definitely need to seek a professional medical opinion and evaluation. As mentioned, cancer is usually asymptomatic in the beginning. Eventually, however a malignant tumour grows to the point where it is detectable by screening. If it’s not picked up, and continues to grow, it may press against nerves, which causes pain. It may also penetrate blood vessels and cause bleeding, or interfere with the proper functioning of an organ or system.
Some of the more common cancer symptoms are:
Most often, a lingering cough signals a simple infection, such as sinusitis or bronchitis. However, a cough is the most common symptom of lung cancer, and it could also signal cancer of the neck or head. If you have a nagging cough that lasts longer than a month – especially if you’re a smoker, are short of breath or there is blood in any mucous you cough up – you should see a doctor.
A Change In Bowel Habits
Most short term changes in bowel habits correspond to a change in your diet or fluid intake. However, you should see a doctor ir you notice a significant change not explained by diet. Sometimes, a pencil-thin stool indicates colon cancer, for example. If you have unusual, unexplained bowel movements for longer than a few days, you should see a doctor.
Always see a doctor if you have blood in your stool. Haemorrhoids often cause rectal bleeding. You can, however, have haemorrhoids and cancer, so consult a doctor for a thorough examination of your intestinal tract. If you have blood in your urine, this could be due to kidney stones or a urinary infection. It could also, however, indicate bladder or kidney cancer, so you should see a doctor any time you notice blood in your urine. Women who notice unusual vaginal bleeding (such as between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause) must seek medical help. Unexplained vaginal bleeding or an unusual discharge could be an early sign of uterine cancer.
Most breast lumps are actually not cancerous, but are simply cysts or fibroadenomas. It’s never wise to ignore them though, so always have any lumps examined by a doctor. A lump on a testicle is sometimes due to an infection or swollen veins, but it is very often a sign of testicular cancer, so should be evaluated. Lumps may also indicate a swollen lymph node. Lymph nodes swell as a result of infection, but they can also be a symptom of cancer. See a doctor if you have a lump or gland that stays swollen for three to four weeks.
A Change In Bladder Function
Most urinary symptoms are explained by an enlarged prostate gland in men, or a urinary tract infection in women. Most men experience prostate enlargement as they age, but if you find you need to urinate more frequently or urgently, can only pass small amounts of urine at a time, or have a slow urine flow, you could have prostate cancer and must see a doctor immediately. Bladder irritation and urinary frequency are also symptoms of bladder cancer or pelvic tumours.
Bloating, Back Pain, Indigestion Or Pelvic Pain
“Women are natural bloaters,” says Dr Marleen Meyers, an oncologist at NYU Langone Medical Centre. “It’s OK to wait a week or two to see if it goes away.” If it doesn’t get better, or if you also experience bleeding and weight loss, see a doctor. Constant bloating could be a symptom of several types of cancer, including ovarian, pancreatic, breast, colon, gastrointestinal or uterine. Back pain is common in everyday life, but it can also be a symptom of ovarian cancer.
There are many other symptoms of cancer, including unexplained anaemia, hoarseness, changes to a wart or mole, indigestion or difficulty swallowing, unexplained weight loss, night sweats or fever, continuous genital or anal itching, persistent headaches and sores that don’t heal. If you have any concerns, please consult your doctor.
As always, however, the best way to fight cancer is by preventing it in the first place by eliminating or reducing risk factors. Alt Med Care was voted the best integrative medicine clinic in South Africa in an independent survey. We are committed to helping people live longer, better quality lives by adopting a multidisciplinary approach to disease prevention and management like cancer. To find out more, contact us today.