Mrs Yamini, a gentle lady of 65 years of age was leading a very active life. But then she started having vague abdominal pains- Off and on breathing difficulty, severe back pain, occasional giddiness and a lot of lethargy in doing even the day to day routine work. She also felt a lump in her breast accidentally one day but she kept ignoring her symptoms for at least 6 months. She noticed one day that the skin around the nipple was getting excoriated and there was nipple inversion as well. Even then she did not share her problems with her family members. One day she fell down unconscious in her house and was immediately rushed to the emergency department. After a battery of tests she was diagnosed to have stage IV breast cancer which was inoperable and had spread to her lungs, liver and bones. She and her whole family were shocked and devastated. This is nothing unusual and we keep on hearing many such stories every day. But does anyone ever pause and think why it happens?
The problem is our body keeps on sending us warning signals which we find very convenient to ignore. Even cancer has 10 warning signals which all of us should know and get ourselves checked up regularly even before these symptoms develop.
Change in bowel or bladder habits:.
Any symptom of persistent diarrhea, constipation, inability to empty bowels completely, mucus discharge, stomach ache, pain in the rectum or anus, blood in stools or urine, inability to pass urine or loss of stream of urine could be warning symptoms of cancer in digestive or urinary tract.
A sore or bruise that does not heal:
A sore anywhere in the body say mouth, skin, breast, penile area or vagina that bleeds and does not heal, could be one of the most potential signs of cancer.
Unusual bleeding or discharge:
Any type of discharge from nipple, rectum or vagina when you are not menstruating, or abnormal presence of blood, either in urine, stools, sputum, vomit or from mouth or nose is not a good sign. It should be tested to rule out cancer.
Thickening or lump in breast, testicles or anywhere:
Any lump anywhere in the body may it in the neck, armpit, breast, oral cavity , skin, muscle, testicles or anywhere in the body should always be investigated even if it is painless and not causing any symptoms.
Indigestion or difficulty swallowing:
If a patient experiences any difficulty in swallowing liquid, semisolid or solid food it could be indicator of underlying problem in food pipe, pharynx, tongue or stomach.
Obvious change in the size, color, shape, or thickness of a wart, mole, or mouth sore:
A wart, mole or freckle that changes in size, shape or color or that has uneven borders is not safe. Hyper pigmentation or darkening of skin, reddish patches, itching or excessive hair growth can be symptoms of cancers.
Nagging cough or hoarseness:
Any persistent cough which may be dry or associated with sputum or change in texture, pitch or quality of voice could be early indicators of cancer in the voice box, tongue or lungs.
Unexplained loss of weight or appetite
Most of the people would feel happy to see the weighing machine announcing weight loss for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, this could be sign of cancers in pancreas, stomach, food pipe and lungs. Loss of appetite which can contribute to weight loss can also indicate cancer.
A drop in haemoglobin may be an indicator of loss of blood anywhere in body due to any solid tumour or due to problems in formation of blood due to blood cancers as leukemia, lymphoma or multiple myeloma.
Persistent low-grade fever, either constant or intermittent:
Any fever that does not go away could be a cause of underlying infection or tumor anywhere in the body.
So it’s important not to ignore any of these warning signals of cancer and wait for the cancer to become apparent. It’s not at all good when your cancer is ‘palpable’ from the outside. Especially when, as at this stage, they didn’t even know where the primary source was. Carcinoma works cunningly from the inside out. Detection and treatment often work more slowly and gropingly, from the outside in. So on this World Cancer Day, let’s all of us pledge to take care of our body lovingly and start getting our cancer screening check-ups.