With all the high tech screenings, procedures, drugs, and research, one would have to think that the “war on cancer” would be seeing some forms of success. Yet, men still have a slightly less than 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer, and for women, the risk is a little more than 1 in 3. Approximately 77% of all cancers are diagnosed in people 55 years of age and older.
So what can someone do at home to detect cancer early, to avoid becoming another stat?
Lump or thickening in the breasts, testicles, or lymph nodes
Many cancers can be felt right through the skin. especially those in the breasts, testicles, and lymph nodes. A lump or thickening is a warning sign, and can easily be felt through self-examination. Some breast cancers show up as red or thickened skin, rather than a lump.
Not only indicative of skin cancer, various changes in the skin can be a sign of other cancers as well. Signs and symptoms of cancer reflected on the skin include:
• Darker looking skin
• Yellowish skin
• Reddened or inflamed skin
• Dry scaly patches
• Excessive hair growth
• Changes in warts, moles, or freckles that change colour, size, or shape or loses its sharp border
• Sores that do not heal
Throat and mouth problems
A persistent sore throat, cough, hoarseness, lump in the throat, or difficulty swallowing may indicate cancer of the pharynx, larynx, or oesophagus. Any coughing that brings up blood is an immediate indication to seek professional help.
White patches inside the mouth and on the tongue may be leukoplakia. This is a pre-cancerous area that’s caused by frequent irritation, and often caused by smoking or tobacco use.
Change in bowel habits, bladder function, and digestion
Continuing urinary difficulties, constipation, chronic diarrhoea, abdominal pains, rectal or urinary bleeding, or dark tar-like stools can all be signs of bladder, prostate, and other cancers.
Recurring digestive problems such as indigestion, nausea, heartburn, bloating, loss of appetite and abdominal discomfort all may be signs of cancer as well.
Pain is often a sign of persistent inflammation and immune system issues. Both of these conditions can be precursors to cancer, if not remedied appropriately.
A headache that does not go away may be a sign of a brain tumoir, and persistent back pain may be a symptom of cancer in the colon, rectum, or ovaries. Do not leave these issues unattended, as pain due to cancer may mean it has already spread from where it started.
Chronic fatigue is an extreme tiredness that does not go away, even with plenty of sleep. As cancer grows, this condition can become more prevalent, and is often a sign of an overburdened immune system.
Fever is quite common with cancer, but it often happens after it has spread from where it started. Nearly all people who have cancer will experience a recurring fever at some point, especially when the cancer starts to have a significant effect on the immune system.
Less often, fever is an early sign of cancers like leukaemia and lymphoma.
At some point in time, most people with cancer will experience unexpected weight loss. Losing 10 pounds or more for no known reason may be the first sign of cancer. This happens most often with cancers of pancreas, stomach, oesophagus, or lung.
If any of these conditions exist, seek professional help immediately and consider alternative screening methods like thermography.