It’s hard to talk about cancer. Even the youngest and healthiest adult can feel a touch of mortality when the topic comes up in conversation.
As everyone knows, cancer isn’t always fatal — especially if detected early. Your chances of survival are exponentially better if you catch it during the initial stage and arrest the process through a recommended course of therapy. It’s your best chance to beat it.
Denial is one of the strongest and most difficult emotions we as humans face. We all too often ignore what are consider to be worrisome signs and symptoms, hoping they’ll go away as quickly as they came only to find that we’ve jeopardized our health and maybe our lives.
Cancer grows. It progresses. And it will take your life unless you’re ready to deal with it. Read on — you owe it to yourself to know the signs and symptoms that warrant a visit to your doctor. Unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more is a cause for concern. Cancer cells burn energy inefficiently, thus requiring more calories. If you haven’t changed any external factors and you’re dropping weight, it’s time for blood work. Frequent infections and fevers could be a sign of a compromised immune system. Various cancers such as lymphomas a
nd leukemias attack the body’s ability to fight off infections. Frequent sickness with associated fevers can be very serious signs, so don’t ignore them.
Pain at night
that is not relieved by rolling into a different position could be a bad sign. Like other cells, cancer does the majority of its growing at night. So if your pain lessens by day and worsens after you’ve pulled up the covers, consider being seen by your doctor. Night sweats are not a common phenomenon — unless you have cancer. Cancer is more active at night, and more activity means burning fuel. A higher metabolic rate means more heat, and thus the cooling
mechanism of sweating occurs.
Excessive fatigue is frequently reported by patients in the early stages of cancer. This fatigue is unique — it’s a fatigue like no other. It’s the kind of fatigue that begs you to go to bed for the night as soon as you get home from work and sleep all day on the weekends. During the early growing stages, the cancerous cells use an enormous percentage of the calories you take in during the day, not leaving you
with much energy for the things you need to do.
Blood in your stools or urine are warning signs that there could be something seriously wrong with your organ functions. Also of major importance are changes in your bowel and bladder habits. Unless there’s a pre-existing documented problem, “accidents” are unacceptable and need to be investigated immediately.
Hoarseness of the voice can be one of the most worrisome signs of all — and the easiest to miss. Often chalked up to a cold, an allergy or fatigue of the day, loss of the power of your voice could indicate lung, thyroid, stomach or esophageal cancer — all of which are common in the United States. Different cancers are seen in other parts of the world, but industrial countries such as the U.S. have high proportions of these forms of cancer and everyone should have a low threshold for losing their voice.
A dark nail may not be a bruise after all. The most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma, typically manifests as dark spots on the nail beds. See a dermatologist at the first available opportunity — detected too late, melanoma is usually fatal.
It’s important to remember that many of these warning signs could point to a myriad of other problems, but couple any two or add a few together and you could have serious problem. Take care of your body — you only get one — so get it checked out.
Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes “On the Mend” weekly. Questions may be submitted by email to email@example.com.