Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for
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Catching cancer early has become one of the principal focus strategies to combat the disease around the world. Researchers have tried to achieve this by characterising the symptoms of the disease at all four stages. According to their research, three symptoms are most consistently associated with stage IV cancer.
In 2020, researchers writing in the medical journal Lancet Oncology analysed data for 7997 patients to assess cancer symptoms at varying stages of the disease.
The target of the study was specifically to examine the link between common symptoms of cancer and the stage of cancer at diagnosis.
They reported: “The proportion of patients diagnosed with stage IV cancer varied substantially by presenting symptoms, from one percent for the abnormal mole to 80 percent for neck lump.
“Three of the examined symptoms (neck lump, chest pain, and back pain) were consistently associated with increased odds of stage IV cancer, whether reported alone or with other symptoms.
“The opposite was true for abnormal mole, breast lump, postmenopausal bleeding and rectal bleeding.”
For 12 of the 20 symptoms studied, more than 50 percent of patients were diagnosed at stages other than stage IV.
The scientists also reported that for 19 of the 20 symptoms assessed, more than a third of patients were diagnosed at stages than stage IV.
It is important to note that not all people with advanced cancer die from it.
Drastic improvements in treatment mean the condition can be kept under control for months or years.
The Cancer Council Victoria notes: “Other people find that different health issues become more serious than cancer.”
Stage 4 cancer is diagnosed when the disease has spread from its point of origin to one other organ.
It is usually known as secondary or metastatic cancer and is notoriously difficult to cure because it is hard to remove from the body.
The goal of treatment measures is to improve the quality of life of sufferers and prolong the survival of patients.
Treatments like chemotherapy are often dismissed for the treatment of stage 4 cancer, because the risks of the treatment outweigh the benefits.
Radiation therapy is deemed the second best alternative as it can shrink tumours and help with symptoms.
Immunotherapy, alternatively, can help by boosting the body’s natural immune defences to fight off the disease.
An oncologist will usually determine the best treatment option based on the type of cancer, and where it has spread.
Although treatments have significantly boosted cancer survival rates, cancer prevention is still widely encouraged.
Healthy behaviours to adopt include:
- Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Getting regular physical activity
- Keeping a healthy weight
- Using sun protection when outdoors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “You can reduce your risk of getting cancer by making healthy choices like keeping a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.”
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