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|Introduction To Cancer Symptoms
As there are over 200 types of cancers, the signs and symptoms of the disease can vary. Although many cancers are silent to begin with, as soon as they start to grow, they usually inflict some change on the body that sets alarm bells off. A sign is described as something that the doctor can physically see, such a lump, and a symptom is something the patient 'feels', like depression, weakness, fatigue or pain. Some types of cancers may initially only cause symptoms which are put down to other causes such as stress, workload or flu. Gradually the physical signs will appear. Having one sign or symptom may not be enough to initially to qualify for a cancer diagnosis. For example a pain in the back could simply be a pulled muscle. It could also be a sign of pancreatic cancer. Sometimes people ignore symptoms because they are frightened by what they mean and delay asking for medical help. While something like fatigue for example is far more likely to be caused by lack of iron, it could also be a sign of bowel cancer. A lump in the breast is probably a cyst or breast fibroid. But it could also be breast cancer. No symptom should be ignored, especially if it does not go away within a month or continues to worsen.
The signs of cancer vary according to where it located, and how big it is. If cancer has spread, symptoms may appear different in different parts of the body. As cancer grows it can push on nearby organs, nerves and blood vessels. In critical areas, such as the brain, even the smallest of growths can cause severe symptoms. The following is a list of general signs and symptoms which everyone should be aware of. However, just because you have them, doesn't mean you have cancer.
Unexplained weight loss is when a person loses weight for no apparent reason. A diet has not been followed and calorie intake may be normal. Most cancer patients lose weight at some time. If a person loses more than 10 pounds for no apparent reason, cancer may be suspected. This sort of symptom is most associated with cancer of the stomach, pancreas, esophagus and lungs. Weight loss may occur because cancer cells utilize more of the body's energy than normal cells, or they may change the way the body creates energy from food. Unexplained weight loss can occur with our without appetite.
Lower your risks: See our tips for Cancer prevention.
Extreme tiredness is one of the most common symptoms of cancer, more commonly in the advanced stages but it can occur in the early stages. Anemia is the most likely culprit. Blood loss usually causes anemia, so if there is no obvious source of blood loss, this will need to be explained. Fatigue can occur in both malignant and non-malignant cases.
Fever is a frequent symptom of many illnesses, including cancer. Specific to cancer, a fever most commonly occurs when cancer has spread from where it started. In other words it usually occurs in the later stages. Fever can make it harder for the body to fight cancer. If it occurs in the early stages it is a likely indication of blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia.
Tips of Cancer Fighting Foods: - See Cancer diet foods.
Pain is a very difficult symptom to diagnose, as there are literally hundreds of potential causes. In relation to cancer pain is usually a sign that the disease has progressed and that a tumor has grown and is pushing on nearby organs or blood vessels. A headache that will not disappear even with painkillers may be a sign of brain tumor. Back pain can be a symptom of pancreas, colon, rectum or ovary cancer. Stomach pain is so vague, but it may be a sign of stomach or pancreatic cancer. See, does cancer hurt?
In addition to skin cancer, other cancers can affect the appearance of the skin. Signs include darkening of the skin (hyper pigmentation), yellowish tint to skin and eyes (jaundice), itching (pruritus), reddening (erythema) and excessive hair growth. If a wart, mole or freckle changes shape, size or color, it should be seen by a doctor immediately.
Sores that bleed and do not heal may be a sign of skin cancer. A sore in the mouth that will not heal could be a sign of oral cancer, this should immediately be checked by a doctor, particularly in people who smoke or chew tobacco. Any white patches on the inside of the mouth or on the tongue should also be checked. It may be a sign of leukoplakia.
Long-term diarrhea, constipation or changes in size of stool could be a sign of colon cancer. Blood in the urine or pain when passing urine should always be checked by a doctor. In fact, any unusual bleeding, from the vagina or rectum should be evaluated.
Any lumps in the breast, glands or soft tissues of the body should be checked. A lump, particularly if it continues to grow can be an early (or late) sign of cancer. Lymph nodes often swell from infection, but usually shrink again after a few weeks. Any lump discovered by breast self-examination that remains swollen for at least 4 weeks should be evaluated.
A cough which is persistent and does not disappear after 3 weeks may be a sign of lung cancer, particularly if accompanied by blood and mucus. Hoarseness can be a sign of cancer of the thyroid gland or voice box. Any swallowing problems should also be evaluated as it may be a sign of esophagus cancer.
There are many more symptoms than listed here, but they may be less common, depending on the type of cancer present. If you notice any major changes in the way you are feeling or the way in which your body acts, contact your doctor. Try not to delay a checkup, chances are, it is nothing serious. And if it is, the sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner you can discuss cancer treatments and the better your chances of a cure.
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