8 common early signs of cancer
Cancer, irrespective of the type, is a huge health concern around the world. Today, thanks to major improvements in screening technology, doctors are able to prove an early diagnosis of the condition, encouraging prompt and appropriate treatment. However, while keeping an eye out for the condition, one must remember that signs can vary depending on factors such as the size of the tumor, its impact on nearby organs and tissues, and its progression.
Common early signs
Most people usually experience fatigue after exertion. But when dealing with cancer, the fatigue sets in without engaging in intense physical activities. Such exhaustion can hinder day-to-day activities. Just like normal cells in the body, the cancer cells thrive on nutrients to grow, leaving little for other healthy cells. This deprivation can make one feel extremely tired throughout the day.
Changes in bowel movements
One of the early warning signs of cancer is changes in bowel movement. Further, colorectal cancer affects the colon and rectum, causing symptoms like diarrhea and constipation, which can further contribute to fatigue. Such changes can be accompanied by persistent pain in the abdomen and pelvic region.
While bloating can cause discomfort, most people believe it to be harmless. However, it could be a sign of cancer for some. For instance, when affected by ovarian cancer, the body has a buildup of fluid (cancer cells) in the abdomen region. So, if one observes persistent bloating, which does not go away following bowel movement and lasts longer than two weeks, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Additionally, if one experiences changes in their appetite, it could be a sign of tumors taking up a lot of space in the abdomen region.
Typically, subtle changes in the skin can indicate issues in overall health, including the development of cancer. The changes could be in the skin color—yellowing observed in the eyes and on fingertips. Further, the development of new moles or changes in the size of existing moles on the skin can be a cause for concern. The moles could also undergo changes like taking on a different color, increased size, irregular borders, and asymmetrical edges. Moreover, when dealing with skin cancer, the visible signs can begin as a rash, nodule, or irregular patch on the skin’s surface. As cancer grows, the size of such growths can increase, indicating the condition has affected the deeper layers of the skin.
Shortness of breath
Although shortness of breath can be a sign of many illnesses, it could indicate the development of cancer. Known as dyspnea, the intensity of breathing issues can vary from one patient to another. While for some, shortness of breath is a result of exertion, for others, the symptom could occur even while resting. One of the reasons to keep an eye out for dyspnea is that it could indicate the presence of an airway-blocking tumor. Some of the other issues that can lead to the occurrence of this symptom are inflammation of the air passageways and tumors pressing down on the lungs. Based on the diagnosis confirming the underlying issue, one can consider physical therapy to counter it and can increase lung capacity. This can help one get better at performing daily activities and strengthen weak muscles.
One of the early warning signs of cancer is bleeding, which can vary in type. Some types of bleeding can be more indicative of cancer than others. For instance, abnormal vaginal bleeding, blood-filled discharge from nipples, blood in the stool and urine, and hemoptysis ( coughing up of blood) can be warning signs of cancer. The bleeding could be mild and unnoticeable in the early stages of the condition. But, as the cancer reaches advanced stages, the severity of blood loss could increase, requiring immediate medical attention. However, one must keep in mind that, in most cases, the cancer site can determine the origin of the bleeding. For instance, if the cancer affects the digestive tract, it can lead to spotting or blood in the stool.
Also called dysphagia, trouble swallowing foods and liquids can be an early sign of cancer, especially esophageal cancer. Here, one may experience a sensation that resembles food being stuck in the chest. But in rare cases, one may also experience choking when dealing with cancer. When one notices this issue, it is important to keep an eye on the discomfort. For example, the symptom can worsen, causing pain while swallowing, indicating the growth of cancer and the narrowing of the esophagus. Here, one should seek medical attention immediately and seek treatment.
Most forms of cancer can be painless in their early stages. Nevertheless, conditions like brain tumors can cause persistent headaches. Further, esophageal cancer causes symptoms like pain while swallowing foods and drinks. However, the intensity of pain can vary depending on the type, location, and growth of cancer. For some people, the pain can result from the compression of organs, and for others, it could be attributed to the pressure on affected nerves. So, as the cancer grows, the pain may worsen. Any kind of persistent pain should be examined by a doctor to determine the underlying cause.
Finally, in addition to the early warning signs of cancer mentioned above, one must keep an eye out for lumps, persistent coughing, unhealing sores, and night sweats. If one notices one or more such symptoms, they should consult a healthcare professional and get examined at the earliest. This way, one can get an early diagnosis of the condition i.e. detect cancer in its initial stages. Further, getting examined for cancer in its early stages can help one get timely treatment and have a better chance at quick recovery.