According to the American Cancer Society, it would be helpful if our bodies gave us a clear message when we had cancer, but unfortunately they do not. Since cancer is actually a group of diseases that can cause a variety of different signs and symptoms in various locations depending on where it began or has spread in the body, it is a little more complicated.
It is also important to know that more often than not, possible signs of cancer do not turn out to be cancer. But if you do experience any of the signs as noted below, follow up with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Early detection is key to the best success at treating or controlling cancers and many other diseases.That is why paying close attention to anything out of the ordinary with your body is important, as is having regular health check-ups with your healthcare provider, plus any recommended screenings on time.
In addition, know that it is thought that a significant percentage of cancers could be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle and avoiding personal and environmental toxin exposure. For more about this topic, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at cancer.org/healthy.
Possible signs of cancer
- Unexplained weight loss: losing 10 pounds or more without knowing the reason.
- Fatigue: extreme tiredness that doesn’t get better with rest.
- Pain: especially back pain or a headache that doesn’t go away or get better with treatment
- Skin changes: Any wart, mole or freckle that changes color, size or shape, or that loses its sharp border should be seen right away. Report other skin changes, such as darkening, yellowing, reddishness, itching and excessive hair growth.
- Sores that do not heal: These can be on the skin, in the mouth, or on the genitals.
- Change in bowel habits or bladder function: long-term constipation, diarrhea, a change in stool size, pain when passing urine, blood in the urine, or a change in bladder function (such as needing to go more or less often than usual).
- White patches inside the mouth or white spots on the tongue: Smoking or other tobacco use can cause pre-cancerous areas. If not treated, these patches or spots can become cancer.
- Unusual bleeding or discharge: This can include coughing up blood, blood in the stool (which can look like very dark or black stool), abnormal vaginal bleeding, blood in the urine or a bloody discharge from the nipple.
- Lump: This can be anywhere, but mostly occurs in the breast, testicle, lymph nodes (glands), and the soft tissues of the body. Some breast cancers show up as red or thickened skin rather than a lump.
- Indigestion or trouble swallowing that doesn’t go away.
- Nagging cough or hoarseness that doesn’t go away.
The American Cancer Society notes that the above signs and symptoms are common, but they aren’t the only indications of cancer. If you notice any major changes in the way your body works or the way you feel — especially if it lasts for a long time or gets worse — see your doctor.
— Aynsley Anderson, MA, RN, is Community Education Coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which is a major sponsor of WellCommons. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rock the Block – Kick Cancer
For more than two decades, Lawrence Memorial Hospital has focused its fundraising efforts in October on breast cancer. Breast cancer is a devastating disease that affects many individuals, mostly women. But because all cancers need to be kicked and all survivors rock, the LMH Endowment Association is planning a new event called Rock the Block – Kick Cancer to raise funds and awareness to fight all kinds of cancer.
The event will be a block party from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, and is planned as an outdoor concert to take place between Jack Ellena Honda and Briggs Auto along West 29th Terrace. For more information about tickets or sponsorship opportunities, visit lmh.org/rocktheblock or call 505-3318.