30 Symptoms: What’s Normal, What Isn’t?
Cancer has, to a huge degree, become one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Over the span of several decades, it has become so prevalent that it is now second to cardiovascular disease in terms of the number of people killed. Having cancer would result in any of these signs or symptoms. Signs that others might sometimes see as innocuous, when in fact they already point to something serious, and might even mean that one is already in the advanced stages of cancer. Most cancer symptoms are something only the person experiencing them can observe, such as extreme feelings of weakness, tiredness, and pain in several distinct areas.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT CANCER
Likewise, in the U.S., cancer has also taken its place as the second most common cause of death after heart disease. Being diagnosed with cancer is already the reason for one’s heart to stop, but here’s a piece of great news about it. Over time, there have been known new treatments that have significantly increased the chances of survival. Credits to the latest studies about cancer, modern and effective treatments are being discovered. Also, since people have become more aware of the risks of cancer, more also subject themselves to early check-ups, as well as go through constant health monitoring, to keep in check.
Cancer is more curable when detected early. That is why there is a need to watch out more about the signs and symptoms we will further discuss in this article. However, to be perfectly clear about it, there exist some cancers that develop without showing signs or symptoms. These kinds of cancers are the most likely to leave sufferers in serious condition, which is why it can’t be stressed enough that people need to be encouraged to do annual check-ups. Whether one shows symptoms or not, it’s still best for one to get checked. This disease can be particularly devastating for one who is quick to ignore symptoms.
ABOUT CANCER TREATMENT
For most people who are especially at risk for cancer, a physician’s evaluation of potential symptoms should be done on them. Some examples of people who are considered most at risk are those who hail from a family with a history of cancer, those who smoke, who consume alcohol, and who are exposed to the sun to a certain degree. Prevention is still the best way to get ahead and fight cancer, and by doing so, we are either eliminating or decreasing the risk factors of developing the disease. Early detection is always key. Good thing, though, is that advancements in cancer treatments occur yearly and have become more accessible to everyone with the help of health care programs.
Advances in cancer treatments combined with early detection, make treating cancer more and more possible for those who have been diagnosed. Also, functioning as a good team player in the treatment process by securing a comprehensive health insurance policy that will help the patient through the ordeal will be a good idea. Some of these companies include the value-added service of annual check-ups to help their clients keep in perfect health and shape. At the end of the day, the goal of these companies is to help you prepare for the unforeseeable, and although you might think you’re prepared, nobody really expects to get diagnosed with cancer, so it is still best to remain healthy and to consider your health plan as savings for your loved ones.
ABOUT CANCER SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
It has become common knowledge among doctors that most cancers don’t manifest specific symptoms. This is why it is so important for people to (at least to the degree that they can) limit their risk factors and undergo cancer screening or other equivalent check-ups. An important thing to know about most cancer screening is that it is specific to certain age groups. Of course, it is best to let your primary care doctor recommend the type of screening to be performed depending on your age. It is an advantage when your health care is all in one place where there’s no need to travel somewhere far for a special screening.
Consequently, individuals need to know all the symptoms that might point to the possibility of developing cancer. These warning signs should not be ignored by people, especially those who know they are at risk. Ignoring the symptoms might lead an individual to get diagnosed late, and miss out on a cure. So if you are experiencing a few of the signs and symptoms of cancer which we’ll be describing in further detail below, it could mean that your body is signaling that something is wrong. An appropriate and prompt response can save your life, and early diagnosis can help you avail of better options.
HOW CANCER CAUSES THESE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
When cancer cells are abnormally moving and growing fast, this pushes organs, nerves, and blood vessels nearby, causing certain signs and symptoms. This is true for even the smallest tumors in the body as they can send signals or cause symptoms in other organs, even up to the brain. In most cases, because of the presence of cancer cells, one’s blood tests will reflect the abnormal activities going on inside the body. The results will typically cause alarm and lead to a bigger degree of testing and examination. Most of the time, however, symptoms like pain and fever will occur first and will push an individual to see a doctor to run tests.
As cancer spreads all over the body during the process that is medically known as metastasization, different parts of the body will start giving signals, portending that something is awry. At this point, the individual should be assessed as soon as possible because any delay in getting treatment can cause the cancer to progress to an unmanageable degree. Indeed, a sufferer might miss out on the window of opportunity where treatment can still make a difference. So in case you are feeling more tired than you think you should be, give your body more attention and look out for other symptoms.
CANCER GENERAL SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of cancer. It may be different depending on the type of cancer, but, generally, one or more of these symptoms–or a combination of them–will manifest.
1. WEIGHT LOSS
Unexplained weight loss of 10 or more pounds is one red flag to watch out for. It is also common for most people with cancer to lose some or more weight at some point. However, experiencing sudden weight loss with no discernible reason can mean that you are coming down with a serious health issue. Usually, weight loss is most common in people with pancreatic, stomach, esophageal, or lung cancer, but this symptom can also occur with any cancer.
When cancer metastasizes, fever accompanied by night sweats usually crops up to a degree that will most likely cause alarm. Fever, in fact, is very common with people diagnosed with cancer. Another medical fact is that fever typically occurs after cancer had already spread to other areas of the body. True enough, almost all people with cancer get hit by fever from time to time, especially when cancer has already affected the immune system. Cancer fever also makes it hard for the body to fight the infection inside, which makes the fever more troublesome.
As mentioned above, extreme cases of tiredness or fatigue can mean the presence of cancer in your body. One way of knowing whether the fatigue you are experiencing is not of the common variety is when the fatigue doesn’t get better despite that you’ve taken as much rest as you need. Experts will always encourage that you get yourself checked as soon as possible because the fatigue might be a symptom of something more insidious in the body. Unexplainable fatigue can, to some degree, be an early sign of leukemia. It could also be a symptom of some other kind of cancer in the colon or stomach, where blood loss can lead to fatigue.
A lump or the thickening of the skin in a particular area of the body can be because of cancer that is either developing or in the advanced stages already. Many types of cancer can be seen or felt through the skin in the form of a lump or a rough, hard, textured patch at a particular area of the body. This is more common for cancers that affect the areas of the breast, lymph nodes, soft tissues, or testicles. As soon as symptoms of this kind appear, make it a priority to have it checked right away. Especially when said lump or patch grows in size significantly over a short period of time. Some breast cancers, however, will produce red or thickened skin in and around the breast area rather than a lump.
a. BREAST LUMP
A breast lump is a swelling bump or a bulge in the breast area. It usually feels different or seems independent of the breast tissue and appears with discharges in other instances. Although most breast lumps are noncancerous tumors, they still, to some degree, need to be thoroughly checked for the possibility that they are. Also, a common symptom is the occurrence of discharge, which is often unrelated to cancer. Anyhow, women are advised to do monthly self-examinations of their breasts and, as a matter of further examination, go through a mammogram, x-ray which might include MRI or an ultrasound of the breast area.
b. TESTICLE LUMP
For men diagnosed with cancer of the testicles, 90% of the cases usually have a painless yet uncomfortable lump on either or both testicles. Some have enlarged ones and, in other instances, show infections, swelling of veins in the area, and also some distinct changes. That is why any appearance of a lump in the area should be treated with a degree of seriousness and be subject to medical evaluation by your doctor. Men are also advised to conduct their own personal monthly testicular self-examination.
1. SKIN CHANGES
Some cancers may cause changes in skin color or texture, such as yellowing, darkening, or redness of the skin. They will either signal cancer or indicate any progression. Additionally, watch out for an increase in moles, freckles, or changes of warts color, shape, or size as the case is with skin cancer. Also, some cancers share these symptoms, which indicate the progression of cancer to some degree. Excessive itching and hair growth can also be red flags for cancer.
Most of the time, the occurrence of pain indicates the degree to which cancer cells have spread in the body. For some cancers such as bone or testicular cancer, however, pain can be an early symptom and the cancer can be beaten if detected this early on. Back pain can also be an early sign of colorectal, pancreatic, or ovarian cancer. For headache complaints that don’t go away, those can be a sign of brain tumors. Pain can be from cancer itself or because the tumor is growing and causing a reaction in other organs. But it can also be the body’s reaction to chemicals that cause the pain.
3. BOWEL OR BLADDER FUNCTION CHANGES
1. Constipation, diarrhea, and other bowel issues can be symptoms of colorectal cancer. It is important to observe the characteristics of these symptoms and to observe their degree of severity and duration. Usually, long-term diarrhea or constipation means it is a sign of cancer. Those with bladder or prostate cancer will also notice pain in urination, blood in their urine, or other related bladder-function changes. Should you notice any changes in your bowel or bladder movement, make sure you consult your doctor and get assessed as soon as possible.
a. BOWEL CHANGES
Although not all changes in an individual’s bowel movement are symptoms of cancer, some might be and call for a serious degree of attention. Changes in bowel movement may be due to the person’s diet and fluid intake; that is why doctors still have got to check stools to see the problem. Occasionally, continuous diarrhea may be linked to cancer. Essentially, from accounts of cancer patients, they usually feel like moving even after they have done so. In cases like this that lasts for a few days already, further evaluation is needed. In all cases where symptoms cannot be explained, there is a need to examine and evaluate further.
b. CHANGES IS URINATION
Frequent urination that goes on for days can, to some degree, be a symptom of cancer. Although this could also mean urinary infection, especially for men and women with enlarged prostate glands. It is still best to have it checked. Not doing so may lead to the development of prostate cancer for men or cancer of the bladder for both men and women. During the checkup, a blood test, a digital rectal exam, and a biopsy will be done to determine whether cancer is present.
4. COUGH OR HOARSENESS
Symptoms of lung, larynx, or thyroid cancers can be in the form of a cough or hoarse voice that never goes away. It could be a really bad case of a cough that prompts a visit to the doctor. Coughs are, to a huge degree, generally related to cancers in the upper or lower respiratory tracts. In other cases, coughs can be caused by metastasis in the lungs from cancers located in other areas. Many of the patients who develop respiratory tract cancers were formerly smokers with the smoker’s cough already. That being the case, some patients think their cough is the usual case of smokers cough, ignorant of the fact that it’s already a symptom of cancer.
When one experiences constant indigestion or difficulty in swallowing without explanation, this can also be a sign of stomach, esophageal, or throat cancer. Pancreatic cancer can also have these symptoms and oftentimes they manifest to higher degrees. Dyspepsia or indigestion causes a painful, burning feeling in your chest, and most of the time this can give you an unpleasant or bitter taste in the mouth. So when tastes are acting weird and are followed by burning pain in the chest, you shouldn’t just ignore it or brush it aside.
Bleeding is always a red flag and it signals that something is wrong or has been violated. But in association with cancer cases, it is usually related to lung, colon, rectal, cervical, endometrial, bladder, kidney, or breast cancers. It is one of the common problems of cancer patients that can be traced to local tumor invasion or tumor angiogenesis and is essentially the effect of cancer or the treatment. Also, some patients can develop some degree of acute catastrophic bleeding, major episodic one, or low-volume oozing. In each case, it can appear as bruising, petechiae, epistaxis, hemoptysis, hematemesis, hematochezia, melena, hematuria, or vaginal bleeding.
a. BLOOD IN THE URINE
The presence of blood in the urine can often be credited to urinary infection, kidney stones, or other health issues. However, the mere appearance of blood in your urine should already cause alarm, and prompt one to have it checked and tested. Blood in the urine can either be seen visibly or only during urine examination (microscopic hematuria). In some cases, it can be a symptom of kidney cancer or of the bladder. In general, any episode of blood found in the urine should be further examined.
b. BLOOD IN THE STOOL
Your physician should further check the blood in your stool because there could be many reasons for this to occur. Hemorrhoids are one of the most common causes of rectal bleeding, and in some cases, they exist with cancer. So even if Hemorrhoids are common, there is still the need to have it checked further. Blood found in the stool may require a greater degree of investigation, such as performing X-ray and Colonoscopy. If bleeding can be traced to a recurring ulcer, these examinations may not be necessary.
A. CHANGES IN YOUR MOUTH
Changes in the mouth can be taken as early signs of oral cancer, such as having white patches inside the mouth or tongue. While sores, bleeding, or numbness in the mouth may also be taken as other cancer signs. The appearance of a mouth or lip sore that does not heal, as well as the appearance of loose teeth, is something that should not be ignored. Some of the changes in your mouth might appear small, but might, to some degree, manifest one or more of following pre-cancer signs or symptoms:
● Dry mouth
● Thickened saliva
● Changes in taste
● Difficulty swallowing
● Difficulty chewing or opening the mouth
● Bone disease
● Inflammation or pain in the lining of the mouth and tongue
● higher risk of tooth decay or gum disease
B. SWOLLEN LYMPH NODES
Sometimes, swelling of the lymph nodes may occur and can be a serious sign of progressing cancer. You’ll need to get professional help depending on the degree to which your glands remain swollen after three to four weeks. While it may necessarily be cancer of the lymph nodes, it can still be a sign of another form of cancer. Also, cancer may start to spread from the lymphatic system to anywhere else in the body, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma. Some cases, however, may just be caused by infections or other immune system diseases that may clear up as your body heals.
C. BEING OUT OF BREATH
Shortness of breath or a serious degree of being constantly out of breath can be a sign of certain cancers. Equally, cancer treatment also causes shortness of breath, as well as that feeling when you are not able to catch your breath. Such breathlessness is sometimes referred to as dyspnea and can happen rapidly and cause alarm. This occurs mostly in advanced cases of cancer. At other times it’ll be mild but bothersome depending on your activity when it occurs. It is important to know that a cancer patient may experience dyspnea even with normal oxygen levels and that no one really dies from this symptom. However, as part of the patient’s palliative care, your medical team should know that you have these symptoms or if they get worse.
Always feeling uncomfortably full for weeks is a sign of ovarian cancer. However, it can be a normal day-to-day experience, especially after taking gassy foods, or during one’s menstrual period. Persistent bloating, one that doesn’t go away, can be credited to ovarian cancer, which will cause visible swelling in the abdomen. The bloating is usually caused by the build-up of ascites or fluids in the abdomen and is sometimes due to lymphatic system blockage caused by cancer. Especially when already paired with sudden weight loss, these symptoms should be cause for concern and should be talked over with your physician.
Some cancers also cause anemia or low red blood cell count. When these occur at an abnormal level accompanied by an extreme degree of fatigue and feeling of weakness, it could be a sign of leukemia or lymphoma. Anemia is usually a common symptom of cancer, and there could be many reasons why patients experience anemia. The bleeding could be because of cancer itself or due to the treatment. It can also be because of the loss of blood due to bleeding of the tumor or the cancer cells. Another reason for the bleeding may be because of ulcers as well. Anemia can also be because of the low iron levels in the blood.
Still, of course, a lot of these symptoms can be caused by a benign tumor, which has yet to be discovered. This is why we all have to pay attention to these signs and symptoms our body alarms us with, especially those that persist, are considered severe, or simply don’t go away when treated. Some cancers may already be in their advanced stages before signs and symptoms start to show. That is why a regular check-up or trip to your doctor is still a good practice for those who can avail of it out of their insurance plan.
Progression of cancer or of tumors is actually the third to the last phase of its development. It is evidenced by the increase or speed of the growth and invasiveness of the tumor cells. As a result, phenotypic changes occur, the size of the tumor grows significantly, and it becomes more aggressive that it spreads widely to other organs or parts of the body, having greater malignant potential. Signs of the progression vary or occur with other more specific symptoms depending on the degree of severity or progression of cancer in the body. The following are the clues that the cancer progression has already started:
CLUES OF CANCER PROGRESSION
A. Bone metastasis
Bone metastasis indicates that cancer cells have started to spread from its original site to the bone. It is likely that most types of cancer can progress to this degree where it’s been able to spread, particularly cancers like that of the breast and prostate. Bone metastasis may also occur in any bone but commonly does so in the spine, pelvis, and thigh area. It can also be an early sign for some types of cancer or can occur later after cancer treatment. The following are the symptoms:
(1) Joint pain or fractures;
(2) Bowel and urinary incontinence;
(3) Weakness in legs and arms; and
(4) High levels of calcium in the blood.
B. Liver metastasis
Liver metastasis indicates that cancer has already spread to the liver area. It is due to a cancerous tumor grown out from its original site to the liver, where it can now be considered secondary liver cancer. Of course, this differs from the primary liver cancer in that the tumor had originated in the liver where individuals with hepatitis or cirrhosis are credited with high risk. However, most of the time, liver cancer is secondary due to metastasis and that the cancer cells found in the liver are not actually from the liver itself. At this point, the cancer is usually referred to as Stage IV or advanced cancer. The following are the symptoms:
(2) Swelling in the abdomen area;
(3) Dark-colored urine; and
(4) Pains in the right shoulder or upper right abdomen
C. Brain metastasis
Brain metastases indicate that the cancer cells have spread to the brain already. It’ll actually take a while for cancer to spread to this area; however, it is most likely from cancers of the lung, breast, colon, kidney, and melanoma. It is also known as secondary brain tumors, which may happen to 10 to 30 % of adults with cancer. As these metastatic brain tumors grow, some signs and symptoms to which they can be credited will show pressure and changes that are happening in the brain. The following are the symptoms:
(2) Mental changes and speech difficulties;
(3) Seizures; or
D. Lung metastasis
Lung metastasis indicates cancer spread from its original site to the lungs. What happens is the cancer cells break away from the tumor and travels through the blood or the lymph system to other parts, but in this case to the lung area. At this point, it is now considered as secondary lung cancer or metastatic lung tumor. Lung metastasis differs from primary lung cancer, in which case cancer started in the lung. Some cancers are likely to spread to this degree, such as breast, colorectal, kidney, head and neck, thyroid, testicular, bone cancers, etc. The following are the symptoms of lung metastasis:
(1) a cough that doesn’t go away
(2) shortness of breath
(3) coughing up blood
(4) pain or discomfort in the chest
RELATION OF WEIGHT GAIN WITH CANCER
In most cancer cases, weight loss is an evident symptom. However, some people experience the opposite and gain more weight than the ones they already carry and do so to an abnormal degree. Some may mistake weight gain due to hormonal imbalance, as this symptom can be very rare in cancer cases. However, in most cases, this is a post symptom of cancer treatment. Studies show how more than half of women who undergo breast cancer treatment gain extra pounds. However, gaining weight may be linked to negative or not so good results while under treatment.
Also, worthy of consideration is how the excess weight may be a side effect of medicines taken, such as taking steroids. Some chemo drugs might also cause the retention of extra fluids, or what is medically known as edema. Which definitely increases the patient’s body weight to a noticeable degree.
It can also be attached to symptoms of anxiety and distress while under treatment as some patients tend to eat more when they’re anxious or trying to get over nausea symptoms. Also, as a common side effect of steroids, eating can prevent nausea and allergic reactions that come with many chemotherapies. Some just tend to eat to make up for their loss of energy but then become inactive, thus results in weight gain.
BLOOD PRESSURE EFFECTS OF CANCER
Anti-VEGF drugs are some of the cancer medications that result in an increase in blood pressure. These medicines block blood flow supply to tumors and, in effect, blocks other blood vessels in the body, also resulting in a shoot up of the blood pressure. Worth also noted that some high blood pressure may not be all because of side effects but may actually be credited to a progression of certain cancers, such as adrenal cancer. While other treatments, such as chemotherapy and also certain targeted drugs or medication, may cause a reverse effect in the blood pressure and may indicate detrimental results as the other.
BLOOD CLOTS CAUSED BY CANCER
It is known in science and medicine how cancer patients are more prone to develop or are at greater risk of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a blood clot that can occur deep in the veins. Some kinds of cancers, such as the brain, ovary, pancreas, colon, stomach, lung, and kidney, resulting in a high risk of developing DVT. While Lymphomas, leukemia, and liver cancer are more likely to lead to this as tumors secrete substances that make the blood thicker and form these clots. Also, some chemo drugs credit this risk, too.
WHY CANCER CAUSES BACK PAIN
While not all back pain credits to cancer, however, some back pain may indicate or warn cancer in the bones or in the chest to the lower abdominal areas. Back pains could also be an indicator of the extent to which the cancer cells have spread throughout the body. Especially metastasis in the areas from the breast, colon, testicles, or lungs. Also, some tumors grow and put pressure on the spine. The force of the tumor’s growth affects the nerves in the spine and causes extreme pain, as in the case of pancreatic cancer where the tumor grows in the back area. The pain also ranges from bearable to severe.
IMPORTANCE OF RESPONDING TO CANCER PROMPTLY
Identifying cancer symptoms will help the patient and doctor detect early signs of cancer. As a result, it can be that cancer gets better prognosis and swift treatments. For example, the case of melanoma that is effectively treated at its early signs leads to a higher survival rate and a better and wider range of medical options. In this case, a five-year survival rate would mean that 98% of cancer has not grown deep into the skin. Early detection also helps in maximizing medical treatments from the patient’s health insurance. While some symptoms don’t necessarily come from cancer, still, it is always best to treat them with importance and have them checked before they grow worse.
CANCERS SHOWING NO SYMPTOMS
Sometimes some cancers don’t show any signs or symptoms at all. In these cases, often, issues start showing when cancer has gone up a certain degree of spread throughout the body and has long affected many organs. For example, in the case of ovarian cancer, it usually shows symptoms only when cancer has already started to spread to other organs. Unfortunately, most of the time, the cancer is already advanced in stage and becomes very difficult to cure.
However, a regular check-up and screen tests may help you spot these cancers way before any symptom appears and start affecting the body.
Usually, for people with comprehensive health insurance and plans, some companies attach regular annual check-ups to ensure their clients’ excellent health. Some companies also attach a list of their accredited physicians and private laboratories or hospitals they approve to deliver such standards in conducting tests and check-ups. Also, most regular check-ups have already devised a list of certain tests needed to detect serious to chronic diseases. Most of the time, knowing your family history can already be a great start of knowing to a certain degree as to whether you are prone to developing risk for some type of cancer.
KNOWING WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR AND BE CHECKED OUT
While seeing your doctor regularly is ideal, some may have certain constraints about it. In this case, it is best to know when to start seeing your doctor. Identifying the signs and symptoms above will help a patient a lot with this. For one is when a single symptom starts to concern you. But how do you know when it should already concern you?
How do we know for sure when a symptom credits as serious or not? As sometimes, these symptoms most likely are caused by something else. However, as we have already urged you above, it’s always best to take it seriously and have it checked.
It should be that, at the very least, you may ask your doctor to help you figure it out and recognize the symptoms.
Oftentimes, when you are seeing a general doctor, they will refer you to someone who is an expert in the field or someone who specializes in treating certain cancer to quite a degree or notch higher than others.
You may first opt to check your family background for any cancer or certain disease history if you’re worried about developing cancer. This can help you already plan out your check-ups and even help you narrow down tests you might need to take. Or you can also ask your healthcare provider about some of the screening tests or procedures that might be appropriate for you.