When to suspect cancer-Signs and symptoms of cancer

Cancer also termed as Neoplasia and Malignancy is a group of diseases which come under single pathology of uncontrolled growth of cells of a part of body or an organ of body or it may involve a particular system of the body. Though many dreadful diseases are noticed in the practice of medicine, cancer is the most fearful disease amongst the people. The characteristic of cancer which differentiates it from other diseases is its ability to expand, spread throughout the body which is termed as metastasis which when not controlled can lead to death due to dysfunction of various organs of the body. In the recent times, most of the cancers when diagnosed early, prior to metastasis are treatable completely or to some extent and when some of the cancers are not treatable, with initiation of early treatment the 5 year survival rate increases. So, It is important to know the symptoms and signs of the disease which helps the individual to suspect the cancer and to seek the help of the medical professional.

The symptoms of cancer can be due to growth of the mass which exerts its effects locally leading local symptoms or it can be systemic. Systemic symptoms can be due to distant direct effects of cancer or might be due to metastasis. The symptoms like breast cyst, cough that occur when organs like breast, lung are affected are mistaken to be of benign pathology by the patient. In such cases the condition worsens and cancer is diagnosed at late stages. So, utmost importance is to be given to even common symptoms when they occur for prolonged duration and there is need for consulting medical professional and order for necessary investigations.
The general symptoms or the systemic symptoms due to the direct effects of cancer are as follows:
1. Fever
2. Tiredness/Fatigue
3. Sudden loss of weight
4. Loss of appetite
5. Nausea – Vomiting sensation
6. Pain

Fever is the most common symptom of most of the cancers and it is especially important in case of blood cancers as they present with fever as an early symptom. Tiredness or Fatigue is due to the cancer cells utilising all the energy for multiplication. Significant loss of weight within short span of 3 months is one of the common and most important symptom of almost all cancers. Pain is not the usual symptom of early disease. Most of the tumors are painless to start with and when they exert pressures due to expansion and press on the nerves, patient presents with pain or it can an be early symptom of some bone cancers.

Symptoms due to metastasis are based on the stage of cancer. Stages of cancer are divided based on spread of cancer to distant organs and enlargement of lymph nodes in adjacent areas of tumors locally or its spread to distant lymph nodes. So, enlargement of lymph nodes, liver [ Hepatomegaly], Spleen [Splenomegaly ]. Most of the symptoms due to metastasis are elicited by the doctor as signs rather than that expressed by the patient.
The local symptoms of the cancer vary widely with the organ or system affected and are as follows:
1. Bowel cancer – Constipation, change in the form of the stool.
2. Bladder cancer – Change in frequency of urine, Blood in urine, Pain during urination.
3, Breast cancer – Breast lump
4. Oesophagus – Difficulty in swallowing, Pain during swallowing.
5. Lung cancer – Chronic cough
6. Thyroid cancer – Hoarseness of voice.
7. Skin cancer – Change in size, color of the mole or wart.
Again the symptoms and signs widely vary among the individuals and also depends on severity and stage of the disease.

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