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Cancer Part 2: Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

Cancer Part 2: Signs and Symptoms of Cancer
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Early Detection is the key to treating cancer. Here are some of the classic signs and symptoms 

According to the American Cancer Society there is a difference between a sign and a symptom. A sign is a visible difference that can be noticed by someone else such as a doctor or spouse.  A symptom is something only an individual can feel or sense.

There are numerous signs and symptoms of cancer, but many other illnesses can manifest these signs and symptoms as well. If you have any doubts, see your doctor and they can help to determine the probable cause.

It’s also important to note that having one sign or symptom may not be enough to diagnose a condition. If you’re concerned, there are tests from blood tests to biopsies and X-rays that can be used to accurately assess the cause of the sign or symptom.

As a group of diseases, cancer can cause almost any sign or symptom.  Specific signs and symptoms are dependent on the location of the cancer unless it has spread or metastasized.  In that case numerous signs and symptoms can occur in various parts of the body.

One of the ways that cancer presents signs or symptoms is the result of pressure on blood vessels, organs and nerves from a growing tumor.  However, some types of cancer like Pancreatic cancer don’t present signs or symptoms until the tumor has grown quite large.

Some types of cancer putting pressure on the bile duct can cause jaundice, a yellowing of the eyes and skin.  However, jaundice can also be caused by various conditions affecting the liver.

Another set of symptoms associated with cancer includes fever, unexplained weight loss, and extreme fatigue.  Here again there are other conditions that can present these symptoms.  A sudden weight loss of 10 pounds or more could indicate cancer of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus, or lung.

A common sign of certain skin cancers are changes in skin color, thickness or roughness of the skin, and in the case of melanoma a change in the shape or coloration of a mole.  A sore that won’t heal also is a sign of skin cancer.

Coughing is another symptom that can be associated with a variety of conditions, but a chronic cough can be a symptom of lung cancer.

Feeling a hard lump anywhere on the body should be checked by a doctor, although it could be a cyst that will gradually be absorbed by the body.

It’s also possible to detect cancer before any signs or symptoms are present.   There are guidelines from the American Cancer Society for the early detection of cancer.   The tests vary and you should discuss them with your doctor it you are concerned or at risk.

American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer.

Pain is an early symptom with bone cancers and testicular cancer. A headache that won’t go away could be a symptom of a brain tumor.  Typically when pain is present the cancer has metastasized and spread to other parts of the body.

Signs and symptoms that could affect the gastrointestinal system include long term constipation, diarrhea, stool size or blood in the stool which sometimes presents itself with red blood, or a very dark, blackened stool.   Some of these signs and symptoms could indicate colon cancer.  Blood in the urine or pain when urinating or frequent urination could be a sign of bladder, kidney or prostate cancer.

A long lasting sore in the mouth could indicate oral cancer especially if someone has used tobacco or often drinks alcohol. These sores often appear as white patches or white spots inside the mouth and on the tongue.  Dentists routinely check for these signs.

Many illnesses can cause indigestion or trouble swallowing but they are also symptoms of cancer of the stomach, esophagus or the throat.

The American Cancer Society emphasizes that many of these signs and symptoms can be signals of a different illness or condition, but they also recommend that the occurrence of one of these signs or symptoms should be evaluated by your doctor.

Early diagnosis and treatment is the most critical factor in treating cancer so don’t take any sign or symptom for granted.

In the third and final part of The Cancer Series we’ll cover diagnosis and advancements in treatments.





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