Perhaps one of the deadliest and most terrifying disease in the world is cancer. If diagnosed early, patients stand a shot at recovery and a normal life. But if undetected, the chances of survival reducesignificantly as the condition becomes terminal. Cancer is an illness that impacts one emotionally and physically, leaving scars that last a lifetime.
What is Cancer?
The human body is made up of billions of cells working in coordination to control bodily functions. Every cell performs a certain task, multiplies to produce newer healthier cells and eventually self-destructs to allow room for the newer cells.
Cancer disrupts the normal workings of a cell by influencing changes in their molecular DNA. The cancer-affected cells then multiply and form huge masses orclusters that are known astumors.
There are two types of tumors, a benign tumor, which affects only a specific region within the body, and a malignant tumor, which spreads out to affect other body organs. Malignant tumors are harder to contain and cannot be resected entirely.
Cancers like mesothelioma, for example, are easy to remove upon early diagnosis, but if undetected or untreated, the cancer can invade lymph nodes and attach to surrounding nerves, tissues, and tendons, making mesothelioma treatment complex, highly risky, and rarely successful.
So, the key to a quick cancer recovery is early detection, which is only possible if you know the most commonly reported symptoms of cancer.
Common Symptoms of Cancer:
The signs of cancer may vary from patient to patient and depend largely on the area of the body affected. But some general symptoms that are common to most types of cancers include:
Fatigueassociated with cancer isn’t like common fatigue that gets better with rest. Cancerous cells are like parasites that latch onto the host’s body and use it for nutrition and reproduction. No longer able to use its own nutrition for its own energy needs, the host feels tired all the time. On top of that, the body’s immune system has to step up to fight the disease and consumes a lot of the nutrient resource of the body.
Changes in Weight:
Sudden and unexpectedfluctuations in weight is a major cancer sign. Depending on the type of cancer, some individuals lose weight while others pack on a few extra pounds.
- Weight loss – Rapidly multiplying cancerous cells demandand consume more nutrition than normally functioning cells. The food which is supposed to be energizingthe body is fueling the growth of the tumor instead,depleting the body’s own caloric supply. Also, chemicals released by the tumor cells cause nausea and loss of appetite in the patient.
- Weight Gain – However, in other cases, the effects of the cancer on a person’s weight are entirely opposite. Sometimes suppression of the body’s immune system leads to rapid hormonal changes. Insufficient hormonal levels slow down the metabolic rate and decreases the body’s ability to burn calories. Moreover, due to fatigue, patients often become less physically active which can also contribute to unwanted weight gain.
Persistent fever, without any associated causes, is also asign of cancer. Fevercaused by cancer is intense and recurring and doesn’t clear up in a day or two.
Hypothalamusis a brain region that commands involuntary mechanisms of the body, liketemperature. Cancerous cells are known to produce toxins called pyrogens which interfere with the normal functioning of the hypothalamus anddisrupt its ability toeffectively conduct messages.
Additionally, cancer destroys white-blood cells, weakens the immune system,and significantly affects the body’s ability to defend itself. Cancer patients are, therefore, more prone to bacterial and viral infections which can lead to the rise in temperature and fever.
Unexplained and persistent pain that seems to worsen with time is a cancer sign that you need to keep an eye out for. The intensity of the pain is largely dependent on the extent to which the cancer has grown.
During progression, the cancerous cells spread to distant organs and invade surrounding connective tissues. Sometimes the mass of cancerous cells would grow so large that it presses against adjacent nerves, tendons, muscles, and bones, which can be the reason behind a cancer patient feeling intense pain.
Swelling, bloating and ascites are also common signs that indicate that the body isn’t functioning as well as it should be. Often, cancerous cells can damage the body’s lymphatic system, which is responsible for regulating bloodlevels and flushing out bodily secretions.
The blood vessels and veins that form this system can become blocked, thereby, affecting their ability to drain fluids effectively. In some types of cancers, protein and albumin levels reduce, along with the buildup of residual fluids that the lymphatic system is unable to flush out, leading to cancer-associated edema.
Changes In Skin:
Cancer cells utilizeall the essentialnutrients, energy, and fuel of the host for its own growth. The harm that cancerous cells cause internally to the organs produces changes in the skin as well. For instance, change in skin color is a major symptom of serious, underlying health issues.
Different cancers can cause the skin to take on different colors, a yellowish tint usually indicates liver cancer owing to the excessive production of bile. While the loss of oxygen and breathing problems associatedwith respiratory cancers can cause the skin to develop a bluish-purple tone.
Another skin-related issue caused by cancer is excessive dryness; when the epidermal cells lose their moisture and become dehydrated the skin develops a flaky, scaly, and dry texture. It can lead to the development of rashes, painful wounds, and pressure sores as a result of the constant pressure and friction
According to the World Health Organization, cancer takes up about 10 million lives annually and is the leading cause of fatalities worldwide. With the increase in pollution, coupled with environmental degradation, this number of cancer-related fatalities is not coming down anytime soon.
Cancer is an illness that instills fear in the hearts of most people. While the disease cannot be entirely eliminated, we can educate ourselves toward tackling it better. Regular check-ins with a doctor and basic lifestyle changes will take you a long way in living healthy for long.