There’s a saying which goes like this – the deadliest disease begins with a simple rash; this holds true for something as deadly as cancer as well. Ominous as it might sound but we would be better off knowing the signs and symptoms which allude to a possibility of cancer occurrence. In the first place, it is important to understand that a symptom is necessarily a signal which is detected and identified by the affected person himself or herself; for instance, sleeplessness, weakness, etc. A sign on the other hand is usually felt or detected by a healthcare professional. Again a solitary sign or symptom is not enough to pin point the disease; it is a combination which leads to proper detection and subsequent diagnosis.
The cancer context
The signs and symptoms for cancer can be multifarious; they are actually dependent on the location of the cancer, the size of the cancerous cells, its spread and the extent to which it has affected particular organs or tissues of the body. Visible signs and symptoms can appear in different parts of the body if the cancer has spread or metastasized.
How signs & symptoms come forth?
Cancer by definition alludes to overgrowth of certain cells. So when a cancer grows, it is likely to push the organs, tissues, nerves and blood vessels near its vicinity. This pressure is one of the causative factors of signs and symptoms. Besides, even the smallest tumor can engender symptoms if the cancer occurs in critical areas like the cerebrum.
Apart from these, there might be instances where the signs and symptoms take a lot of time to appear and by the time they do, the cancer has already grown large. Pancreatic cancer is one such cancer which does not trigger symptoms until it has become large enough to press on the surrounding organs causing back or belly pain. Other cancers can occur near the bile duct and obstruct the flow of bile thus causing the skin and eyes to look yellow – a sign of jaundice.
Other issues
Fatigue, weight loss and fever are some of the other symptoms that may be caused by cancer. The math is simple; food supplies energy to the body and the cancer cells consume a bulk of that energy thus rendering your body weak. Moreover, cancer cells alter the process in which the body garners energy from food and cause the immunity system to give the above mentioned warning signals.
Another notable capability of cancer cells is diversion. At times, symptoms which are not generally associated with cancer are caused when cancer cells expel certain substances into the bloodstream. For instance, some lung cancers produce substances which resemble hormones and raise blood calcium levels thus affecting muscles and nerves and making the person fatigued. Other symptoms may be blood clots in the veins of legs caused by substances released by cancer cells in the pancreas.
Now what?!?
Knowing about certain symptoms that augur cancer, it is important that we understand how these can help in early diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Curing and removing cancer surgically or in some other process can be more than efficacious if it is small, is detected early and is likely to have spread to other parts and organs of the body. Take Melanoma skin cancer for instance; it is easy to remove it if it has not grown deep into the skin and the survival rate for the same is also very high (97%, 5 years after being diagnosed and treated).
Often it has been found that people ignore symptoms by dismissing them as unimportant (assuming that a lump in your breast is probably a cyst which will go away all by itself). Others fear about what dreadful results a checkup might disclose. The usual symptoms mentioned above does not necessarily qualify you as a cancer patient; a momentary tiredness or coughing is most likely to be caused by anything other than cancer. But it is all the more important to have them looked into when symptoms last for longer periods of time or when they get worse for the sake of your own health.
Modern research has made diagnosis of cancer possible even before your body starts to show symptoms. So the bottom-line is a preventive approach wherein you can actually keep the cancer from aggravating if at all you are detected with one.