Cancer Awareness

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Learn to recognize potential cancer symptoms

A cancer diagnosis is a life-altering event. Those diagnosed with cancer typically wonder how the disease will impact their futures, including their ability to work and how the disease may impact their family's security.

Men and women diagnosed with cancer also often wonder if they missed any warning signs that might have alerted them to their disease prior to their diagnosis. Unfortunately, many forms of cancer have no symptoms in their earliest stages. When they do, conditions may be so mild that they are easily mistaken for something more innocuous.

But that does not mean men and women should not familiarize themselves with the warnings signs of cancer. Early detection of cancer factors heavily into the efficacy of treatments, and the Cancer Cure Foundation notes the following signs and symptoms could be warnings signs of certain cancers:

* lumps or thickening in tissues of the body

* sores that do not heal or noticeable changes in warts, moles or beauty marks

* unusual bleeding or discharge

* weakness, persistent aches or constant fatigue

* unexplained weight loss

* persistent cough or blood in sputum

* constant indigestion or trouble swallowing

Additionally, the American Cancer Society uses the word CAUTION to help people recognize the most common early signs of cancer.

C hange in bowel or bladder habits.

A sore that does not heal.

U nusual bleeding or discharge.

T hickening or lump in the breast, testicles or elsewhere.

I  ndigestion or difficulty swallowing.

O bvious change in the size, color, shape, or thickness of a wart, mole or mouth sore.

N agging cough or hoarseness.

Keep in mind that cancers in particular areas of the body may have their own unique symptoms that do not include any of the ones already mentioned. For example, bloating could be a sign of ovarian cancer, but some may look at it as a symptom of indigestion. Dizziness or drowsiness may be indicative of brain cancer.

The presence of cancer symptoms does not mean a person has the disease. However, symptoms that persist beyond two weeks should be investigated by a doctor. Cancer screening is specific to age and risk factors. A doctor is best qualified to determine which screening options are in your best interest. Blood tests and minimally invasive tests, such as biopsies or CT scans, can help to determine if cancer is present.

The good news is that recognizing cancer early can make treatment more effective. The ACS notes that early diagnosis generally translates to a higher rate of survival.

Routine screenings for cancer in those who have a family history or other risk factors can be helpful. However, understanding your body and being mindful of even the slightest changes can prove even more effective in recognizing symptoms that may be the early stages of cancer.