What Are the Symptoms of Cancer?
It is sometimes difficult to diagnose cancer, in part because there are so many different types and consequently a wide variety of symptoms that may be experienced. Worse still many of the symptoms of cancer may also point to other conditions. Cancer is categorized in two ways. First by the area of the body that is affected by the disease and secondly by the severity of the disease. Virtually any part of the human body can be attacked by cancerous cells. The most commonly diagnosed cancers in the U.S. include lung cancer, breast and cervical cancers, and leukemia (cancer of the blood).
Different populations are at risk for different types of the disease-for example breast cancer can affect men but is much more commonly diagnosed in women. After an initial diagnosis of cancer, say for example lung cancer, is made the disease is categorized as being in Stage I, Stage II, Stage III or Stage IV. Stage I is the least invasive form of the disease, as it refers to cancer that has only invaded the layer of cells that it originated in. Cancers that are caught at this early stage have an excellent prognosis with prompt treatment.
Stages II and III involve cancers that have spread to areas around the original site, but have not yet affected other body organs or systems. While these patients may require more aggressive treatment, chances for a full recovery are still very good. Stage IV cancers involve disease that has spread beyond the original site to other body systems or organs. For example, stomach cancer that has spread to the liver or kidneys. This type of cancer is much more difficult to treat, and will require very aggressive treatment.
Because cancer can involve so many different types of body tissue, it is difficult to state what the symptoms of cancer are. In general some of the symptoms most commonly seen across all types of the disease include:
o Fatigue- this is the most universally experienced cancer symptom. Cancerous cells steal energy from healthy cells as well as forcing the body to use energy fighting the disease. Oftentimes, patients become anemic, which also contributes to the fatigue. Any type of chronic, severe fatigue should be checked out by a physician.
o Unexplained, sudden or extreme weight loss: This is often one of the first symptoms that are noticed. A sudden unintentional weight loss of ten pounds or more should indicate that you need to see an MD.
o Fevers and chronic illness: Feeling constantly run-down, running a low-grade fever frequently and generally being ill much of the time may point to a suppressed or stressed immune system. If you have been chronically sick, a physician should give you a good checkup.
All of these symptoms can be signs of another condition besides cancer or of no medical condition at all, but it is always a good idea to make a doctor appointment if you feel that something is not quite right. In the case of cancer, early detection gives you the best chance for a full remission