Dr Tendai Zuze
CANCER is the last thing anyone wants to hear their doctor mention. There are various cancers which affect various organs and almost all types of cancer will have a significant impact on your life.
The good news is that most cancers grow slowly and when caught early can be cured or otherwise moderated. When advanced, cancers can be obvious, but there are various ‘minor symptoms’ which can actually be signs of some cancer. While some of these symptoms may seem trivial, it is always a good idea to get a doctor’s opinion if you are even slightly worried about any symptom which may indicate cancer.
Here are the common ‘soft signs’ of cancer, whichusually could be minor symptoms of anything else:
Lumps and bumps: if you find any strange lumps or bumps, especially new ones, on any part of your body you need to be suspicious. It may be necessary to examine yourself in those private places from time to time and if you find anything suspicious get it checked out.
Cough or hoarse voice:Because we have just come out of winter, you may take cough for granted. You need to remember, however, that a persistent cough may indicate laryngeal, lung or thyroid cancer.
A persistent sore throat may be a sign of something sinister like laryngeal or throat cancer.
Change in bowel habit: various foods can cause changes in the timing and amount of your bowels. However, in some people, especially the elderly, a change in bowel habits may be one of the early signs of colon cancer.
Change in bladder activity: if you ever notice blood in your urine you need to see your doctor.
While this is commonly caused by infections like bilharzia and some urinary tract infections it needs to be investigated. Whether you are male or female, if you have blood in the urine, especially with pain on urination and an urgency to go, it may indicate cancers of the kidney, bladder or prostate.
Persistent unexplained pain: Such pain on any part of your body also needs to be treated with suspicion. Most cancers would usually cause pain when they are pretty advanced. Sometimes persistent pain is innocent but it can be a feature of bone or ovarian cancers.
Unexplained, unintentional weight loss: This should also raise suspicion of cancer. Weight loss is usually considered medically significant when you have lost more than ten percent of your body weight in less than six months.
While there are various causes including HIV infection, when it comes to cancers we worry about pancreatic, stomach, lung or oesophageal cancers. Most cancers, when advanced, will lead to some degree of weight loss.
Difficulty swallowing: This might signal something fairly harmless like psychological problems. It can also indicate cancer of the oesophagus, stomach or throat.
Unusual, unexplained, bleeding: This should get you worried. Coughing up blood can be a sign of lung cancer. Blood in the stool can be a sign of colon or rectal cancer. Women who experience unexplained vaginal bleeding should be checked for cervical or endometrial cancer. A bloody discharge from the nipple can signal breast cancer while blood in the urine can mean you have bladder or kidney cancers. Unusual bleeding can occur during any phase of cancer, and warrants a visit to your doctor.
Skin changes: People with moles, freckles or warts should keep an eye on them.
If any of these starts acting suspicious, by itching, bleeding, changing colour or in any other way, you need to get it checked out.
Such change may indicate one of several types of skin cancer a lot of which can be treated.
From next week, we will look at different types of cancer and their specifics. Meanwhile, if you are worried about any type of cancer, please visit your doctor.