In this Cancer Basics article, you’ll learn how to tell if you have cancer. Bedside Manners’ mission is to empower cancer patients and survivors through medical enrichment. Enjoy!
Local Signs of Cancer
How do you tell if you have cancer? The signs of cancer, which are visible to you as well as your healthcare provider, can vary. Remember in our article “What Causes Cancer” this disease is dangerous because it interferes with the normal functioning of our body’s organs and tissues. There are signs that can tell you there is something wrong with an internal organ (e.g. lung) as well as an external organ (e.g. skin). These signs may be seen locally, such as on the skin. Here are a few local signs of cancer:
1) Lumps or swellings that can be felt or seen under the skin
2) Blood in stool, urine, vagina (besides normal menstruation), and sputum
3) Ulcers on the skin that do not heal
It is important that if any of these signs are noticed that the appropriate testing is done quickly and thoroughly. For instance, if there is a lump around the neck where the lymph nodes are located, this could be an indication of cancer that is close by. Lymph nodes drain fluid away from our organs, therefore if there is cancer in an organ close to a lymph node, those cancerous cells can migrate there and block the drainage of fluid.
General Signs of Cancer
Besides the local signs of cancer, there are more general signs. The effect of cancer is seen throughout the body. One general sign is weight loss. Cancer cells typically need a lot of energy to survive compared to healthy cells. Cancer cells thrive off of sugar. As well, they have a higher metabolic need. If a person has cancer that is undetected for some time, they may begin to lose weight.
So a person with undetected cancer eating a standard 2,000 calorie per day diet does not bring in the extra energy required to feed cancer and normal cells. When this happens, the cancerous cells siphon off the energy they need thus starving the normal cells. As the body is running at a higher metabolic rate because of cancer, and the person continues to eat as they normally do, there is a caloric deficit. This deficit results in anorexia, which is the loss of muscle and fat.
Symptoms of Cancer
This weight loss may manifest into symptoms, which the person feels but is not detected by a health care provider. As well the mere presence of a cancerous tumor may create the following symptoms:
1) Fatigue and loss of energy
2) Malaise (discomfort or uneasiness)
3) Lassitude (lack of interest or energy)
Oftentimes the presence of cancer in the body results in a change in the physical experience that may be detected by your healthcare provider, such as in the pallor of the skin (your normal color is no longer “normal”). If this is the case, then it is best to follow the advice of your healthcare professional and get appropriately tested.
These symptoms and feelings experienced by the patient are often hard to explain to someone else. The key here is to not to give up, find the words to express how you feel and be persistent about what you are experiencing. Even when test results come back negative, do not give up, especially if you continue to feel poorly. Find a second opinion, possibly a third, and continue to raise your voice about what your body is experiencing.
Call Us at 678-310-8101 or Schedule a Complimentary Call
Schedule a call with our Cancer Health Advocate if you feel overwhelmed after a cancer diagnosis, have questions about how to get better healthcare, or are a caregiver needing advice. You’ll get two immediate action steps to help you change your health in 12 weeks or less.
Dr. Dee Grace PhD, Cancer Health Advocate