CANCER: The Symptoms

We all know what cancer is: a category of diseases that involve abnormal cell growth that can spread to other parts of the body. Cancer can cause almost any symptom – it depends on the kind of cancer, its size and its stage.

About 90.5 million people had cancer in the year 2015. And about 14.1 million new cases are detected each year. These statistics do not include skin cancer, apart from melanoma. For men, the most common types of cancers are lung cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and stomach cancer. For women, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and cervical cancer are the most common threats. The most common cancers that attack children are acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors. The older a person grows, the greater the risk of him or her getting cancer – that’s why rates of cancers are increasing, more people are living longer than ever before, especially in the developed world.

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The importance of symptoms

Some cancers, when they grow, push against organs and blood vessels, causing symptoms. Others don’t show any symptoms until much later – pancreatic cancer, for instance. The sooner cancer is detected, the better the chance for a cure. Take melanoma skin cancer. It’s easy enough to remove at its early stages. The 5 year survival rate is then about 98%. But once its spread to other parts of the body? The rate drops to 16%. That’s a huge difference and only one example that shows how important it is to detect cancer at the earliest.

Common general symptoms

  • Unexplained weight loss: This is, as the name indicates, weight loss that seemingly has no reason behind it. If this kind of weight loss is more than 10 pounds, it may be an early symptom of cancer. The most common cancers it applies to are cancers of the pancreas, lung, stomach and esophagus.
  • Fever: Recurring fever tends to occur after cancer has spread. It is a symptom that your body is fighting something. Fever is known to be an early sign of certain blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.
  • Fatigue: Being tired all the time, even with enough sleep and rest, is a common symptom of cancer – in this case, leukemia, colon and stomach cancer.
  • Pain: Bone cancer and testicular cancer cause pain in their early stages. Chronic headaches are a potential indication of brain tumors, while back pain is a symptom of colon, rectum and ovary cancer.
  • Skin changes: It isn’t just skin cancer that causes change in the skin. Other cancers do as well. They may manifest in the form of hyperpigmentation, itching, excessive hair growth, and yellow or reddened skin.

What to do if you have symptoms

If there’s a symptom you’re not comfortable with, especially one that isn’t going away, see a doctor. It probably won’t turn out to be cancer, but don’t take that chance. It’s also important to get regular check-ups and tests every year, whether you have symptoms or not.
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