Posts made in March, 2015


The Warning Signs of Cancer

The Warning Signs of Cancer


Posted By on Mar 30, 2015

How to Recognize Early Symptoms

While it’s true that it isn’t always easy to detect cancer in its early stages, early diagnosis is a huge advantage in treatment. Therefore, it’s a good idea to inform yourself of cancer’s possible warning signs to help you look out for the health of yourself and your loved ones. The American Cancer Society provides a checklist of some general red flags to watch out for:

  • Change in bowel/bladder habits
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent fever or fatigue
  • Obvious changes in the shape/color/size of birthmarks, moles or sores, or general changes in one’s skin: itching, redness, etc.

This list is designed to reflect a variety of cancers. However, there’s no need to panic if you think you exhibit one of the signs, as none of these are anything like surefire. It’s also not a comprehensive list–you should also get checked if you display more specific indicators such as: lumps in the breast or testicle tissue, sores in your mouth that do not quickly heal, frequent nausea or headaches, or fluid in the lungs (this last could be a sign of mesothelioma). Since cancer can develop nearly anywhere in the body, its signs and symptoms are highly variable. If you have experienced one of these symptoms for two weeks or more, it’s better to be safe than sorry and see a doctor, as early detection can greatly improve one’s prognosis.

What You Need to Know About Screenings

Because of the advantages of early detection for many types of cancer, even if you have no symptoms, your doctor will likely want to perform several screenings. The most common screenings are:

  • Colonoscopies (colorectal cancer screenings). For people at average risk, these are recommended yearly between the ages of 50 and 75.
  • Mammograms (breast cancer screenings). These are recommended for women between the ages of 40 and 74.
  • Low-dose helical computed tomography (lung cancer screenings). Thesre are generally recommended only for smokers between the ages of 55 and 74.
  • Pap smears (cervical cancer and HPV screenings). These are recommended for all women aged 21-65.

Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may recommend others, such as blood tests, skin exams, and breast MRI’s. Depending on family history, some people may even benefit from genetic testing. However, more screenings are not necessarily better, and some actually have associated risks. Colonoscopies, for example, can cause tears in the lining of the colon. In addition, both false-positive and false-negative results are possible.

In some cases, the cancer never actually displays serious symptoms—the patient could have lived quite happily without the detection and subsequent treatment of the disease. Since there are many factors involved, your decisions about screenings should be tailored to your situation and made in consultation with your doctor. Remember that when your doctor suggests a screening, it is purely preventative; it does not mean you have cancer. If you take the proper, informed preventative steps, you increase your chances of living a long and healthy life.

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Do you peruse medical sites for information if you are experiencing symptoms? Technology has changed how people gain access to medical information. You can search your symptoms on various medical sites, or simply using the Google search bar or voice command, giving an unprecedented level of access to information about health issues that was unavailable in the past.

Earlier generations considered medical professionals to be the ultimate authorities and generally simply submitted to a prescribed treatment. Gen-Xers and millennials are far more likely to search out information about a disease or condition, including alternative treatments, and tend to be more suspicious of the medical community and have interest in being an active participant in making decisions about treatment.

Patients may be well-informed about a condition or illness and the various options for treatment even before seeing a doctor. Knowledge is power, and the data accessed from the internet can allow a patient to find the most advanced treatments available, seek out clinical trials, and discover alternative or natural treatments or cures.

How much information can be too much? Searching out diseases, illnesses and conditions can produce an overwhelming amount of data. It is also notable that medical sites such as WebMD sell advertising to big pharma, and you can “click through” to advertisements that advise you to “ask your doctor about _____,” the most productive all-time pharmaceutical marketing strategy. A patient may have already seen several online ads promoting certain medications before seeing a medical professional.

Using a “symptom checker” feature, you can search out what you are experiencing to discover what disease or condition you may have. The results can be frightening. For example, if you choose “food cravings” as a symptom, you are given the following options of possible diseases: bulimia, eating disorder, malnutrition and pica (eating disorder in which a person is compelled to consume non-food items).

Health providers are also going digital, and specialists review test results and charts on a computer and can make decisions about patient care, and prescribe treatment without ever seeing the patient in person, raising real concerns about quality of care. The jury is out, but it is hoped that the access to information will in the end, prove to be a positive.

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