Written by: Shani Fowler
Cancer is a word that still strikes a dagger of fear in most of us, but whilst survival rates are on the increase and new and betters treatments are being introduced, early detection is still a vital key to better chances of survival and making a full recovery quicker.
Don’t be in denial
Women tend to be more adept at being vigilant with regard to changes in their bodies, and also more likely to attend screening processes. Although it has been found that younger women often view cancer as a diagnosis associated with older people, and can often easily overlook symptoms that should be further investigated by their GP. People can often sink in to a denial mode of their symptoms. This is more common with men but women can also be guilty of this. Then there is the other end of the spectrum where people can panic at a slight sign in a body change and charge to the doctors quicker than you can say MRI. Most of us aren’t medically trained so we need to use our common sense and be aware of signs we do need to look for
What then should we be looking out for that may be linked to cancer?
Whilst most of us would welcome the shedding of a few of those extra pounds, if we are not actually trying to lose weight either by diet or exercise but we are losing weight then something is not right. Weight does fluctuate anyway, but say if you had lost ten pounds in one month (without trying) this would be cause for concern. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is cancer other conditions (including thyroid conditions) cause weight-loss but it would be prudent to get it checked out all the same.
We all can feel a little bloated from time to time and especially for ladies as certain times of the month. Persistent bloating that remains for over a three week period should be investigated as this can be a classic sign of ovarian cancer.
It should go without saying that breast self-examinations should be performed on a monthly basis. Still many women do not check their breasts are aren’t even sure what changes they should be looking for. Breasts do change throughout the monthly cycle so try to stick to the same time of the month and if you notice any changes such as a lump, skin changes, nipple changes (especially the nipple becoming inverted) and rashes on the breast then do not hesitate to make an appointment to get it checked out. Again it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to be cancerous, but leaving it unchecked if it was can be life threatening.
We need to be aware of chances to existing moles or other changes to skin pigmentation. Sudden bleeding or excess scaling on the skin should also be checked out. Skin cancer (melanoma in particular) can be deadly if left untreated and early detection gives the best chance of recovery.
Everyone should be vigilant to changes in the mouth, but smokers in particular need to be extra vigilant. Look out for white patches on the tongue or inside the mouth as this could indicate that there are pre-cancerous cells present which could lead to oral cancer. Attend your dental check-up at least every six months as a good dentist usually checks the mouth tissues for any noticeable problems.
Though most of us could admit to feeling tired – constant fatigue can be a sign of some cancers, especially if you have other symptoms too. Fatigue can feel like quite a vague symptom and can also be symptomatic of many other illnesses and conditions but if you are in doubt – get it checked out.
Colds and flus and many other viruses are frequently accompanied by a fever, but having a fever can sometimes relate to early blood cancers such as leukaemia or lymphoma; especially if it is present with other symptoms such as jaundice or a change in stool colour. Getting it checked out with medical professionals is essential.
Swelling or a lump in the lymph nodes particularly in the armpit or neck (or anywhere) can be a worrying sign. If the node is becoming larger and has been present for over a month then it would be prudent to see your doctor. It could be that is simply from an infection but typically a doctor will refer you for a biopsy.
If you have a persistent cough that has been present for over three or four weeks, again it is best to get it checked out. Coughs are the symptom of many things but a persistent cough can be a sign of lung cancer and a chest x-ray will reveal the cause.
Many symptoms above can be more commonly caused by much less sinister conditions than cancer but getting something checked and dealt with early gives you the best chance of survival. You may have been worrying for no reason in which case you then at least have some peace of mind too. Always better safe than sorry.