Cancer is not a viral or a bacterial disease, but rather it is a group of diseases involving abnormal growth of cells with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Generally a body cell divides into two daughter cells by going through a biological process called mitosis. Mitosis is the only perfect way to divide one cell into two cells by splitting each chromosome in to halves without damaging the DNA strand present in either two arms of chromosome (chromatids). Each chromosome consists of two chromatids attached with each other at a central point called centrosome. The part of chromosome which is called chromatid actually contains DNA strand. In a normal cell division the structure of a chromatid is influenced in no way. But in case of cancer chromatids are damaged resulting breakdown in DNA strand. When DNA strand is broken and molecules are scattered the cell loses its consciousness when to divide, how much to grow and and when to stop growing. Thus a rapid and uncontrollabe growth of cells starts. This is called cancer. The affected cells also affected the normal cells and in this way the roots of cancer extends to the other parts of the tissue. But on the other hand normal body cells grow and divide and know to stop growing. Over time, they also die. But in cancer the growth of cells does not complete the whole procedure of mitosis resulting breakdown of DNA strand present inside each chromatid. Therefore such a division and growth of cells becomes uncontrollable. This rapid and uncontrollable division and growth of the cells is called cancer. Cancer contrasts with benign tumors, which does not spread to other parts of the body.
This article is about the symptoms and diagnosis of Cancer. Cancer is a very common disease of this age. Thousands of people are dying each year because of cancer. Cancer does not show much symptoms in its beginning stage. If it is not treated timely or in the very beginning stage, it surely becomes fatal and deadly. Here we are discussing the earliest symptoms of cancer so that it may properly be treated. But unluckily cancer often has no specific symptoms, so it is important that people should make their risk factors limited and go through an appropriate cancer screening.
If you have a symptom or your screening test result suggests cancer, the doctor must find out whether it is due to cancer or some other cause. The doctor may ask about your personal and family medical history and do a physical exam. The doctor also may order lab tests, scans, or other tests or procedures. Before going into these tests and thorough diagnosis procedure, we will evaluate the early symptoms of cancer, so that a timely and a properly medication may be carried out.
Symptoms of Cancer:
In most of the people cancer does not give signs and symptoms that exclusively indicates the disease. However there are some very common symptoms due to which a person should consult a doctor. These common symptoms are as follows:
Persistent cough or blood-tinged saliva
These symptoms usually represent simple infections such as bronchitis or sinusitis.
They could be symptoms of cancer of the lung, head, and neck. Anyone with a nagging cough that lasts more than a month or with blood in the mucus that is coughed up should see a doctor.
A change in bowel habits
Most changes in bowel habits are related to your diet and fluid intake.
Doctors sometimes see pencil-thin stools with colon cancer.
Occasionally, cancer exhibits continuous diarrhea.
Some people with cancer feel as if they need to have a bowel movement and still feel that way after they have had a bowel movement. If any of these abnormal bowel complaints last more than a few days, they require evaluation.
A significant change in bowel habits that cannot be easily explained by dietary changes needs to be evaluated.
Blood in the stool
A doctor always should investigate blood in your stool.
Hemorrhoids frequently cause rectal bleeding, but because hemorrhoids are so common, they may exist with cancer. Therefore, even when you have hemorrhoids, you should have a doctor examine your entire intestinal tract when you have blood in your bowel movements.
With some individuals, X-ray studies may be enough to clarify a diagnosis.
Colonoscopy is usually recommended. Routine colonoscopy, even without symptoms, is recommended once you are 50 years old.
Sometimes when the source of bleeding is entirely clear (for example, recurrent ulcers), these studies may not be needed.
Unexplained anemia (low blood count)
Anemia is a condition in which people have fewer than the expected number of red blood cells in their blood. Anemia should always be investigated.
There are many kinds of anemia, but blood loss almost always causes iron deficiency anemia. Unless there is an obvious source of ongoing blood loss, this anemia needs to be explained.
Many cancers can cause anemia, but bowel cancers most commonly cause iron deficiency anemia. Evaluation should include endoscopy or X-ray studies of your upper and lower intestinal tracts.
Breast lump or breast discharge
Most breast lumps are noncancerous tumors such as fibroadenomas or cysts. But all breast lumps need to be thoroughly investigated.
A negative mammogram result is not usually sufficient to evaluate a breast lump. Your doctor needs to determine the appropriate X-ray study which might include an MRI or an ultrasound of the breast.
Generally, diagnosis requires a needle aspiration or biopsy (a small tissue sample).
Discharge from a breast is common, but some forms of discharge may be signs of cancer. If discharge is bloody or from only one nipple, further evaluation is recommended.
Women are advised to conduct monthly breast self-examinations.
Lumps in the testicles
Most men (90%) with cancer of the testicle have a painless or uncomfortable lump on a testicle.
Some men have an enlarged testicle.
Other conditions, such as infections and swollen veins, can also cause changes in your testicles, but any lump should be evaluated.
Men are advised to conduct monthly testicular self-examinations.
A change in urination
Urinary symptoms can include frequent urination, small amounts of urine, and slow urine flow or a general change in bladder function.
These symptoms can be caused by urinary infections (usually in women) or, in men, by an enlarged prostate gland.
Most men will suffer from harmless prostate enlargement as they age and will often have these urinary symptoms.
These symptoms may also signal prostate cancer.
Men experiencing urinary symptoms need further investigation, possibly including blood tests and a digital rectal exam. The PSA blood test, its indications, and interpretation of results should be discussed with your health-care provider.
If cancer is suspected, a biopsy of the prostate may be needed.
Cancer of the bladder and pelvic tumors can also cause irritation of the bladder and urinary frequency.
Blood in the urine
Hematuria or blood in the urine can be caused by urinary infection, kidney stones, or other causes.
For some people, it is a symptom of cancer of the bladder or kidney.
Any episode of blood in the urine should be investigated.
Hoarseness not caused by a respiratory infection or that lasts longer than three to four weeks should be evaluated.
Hoarseness can be caused by simple allergy or by vocal cord polyps, but it could also be the first sign of cancer of the throat.
Persistent lumps or swollen glands
Lumps most frequently represent harmless conditions such as a benign cyst. A doctor should examine any new lump or a lump that won’t go away.
Lumps may represent cancer or a swollen lymph gland related to cancer.
Lymph nodes swell from infection and other causes and may take weeks to shrink again.
A lump or gland that remains swollen for three to four weeks should be evaluated.
Obvious change in a wart or a mole
Multicolored moles that have irregular edges or bleed may be cancerous.
Larger moles are more worrisome and need to be evaluated, especially if they seem to be enlarging.
Removing a mole is usually simple. You should have your doctor evaluate any suspicious mole for removal. The doctor will send it for examination under a microscope for skin cancer.
Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
Most people with chronic heartburn usually do not have serious problems.
People who suffer from chronic or lasting symptoms despite using over-the-counter antacids may need to have an upper GI endoscopy.
A condition called Barrett esophagus, which can lead to cancer of the esophagus, can be treated with medication and then monitored by a doctor.
Difficulty swallowing is a common problem, especially in elderly people, and has many causes.
Swallowing problems need to be investigated, because nutrition is always important.
Difficulty swallowing solids can be seen with cancer of the esophagus.
Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
Unusual vaginal bleeding or bloody discharge may be an early sign of cancer of the uterus. Women should be evaluated when they have bleeding after intercourse or bleeding between periods.
Bleeding that comes back, that lasts two or more days longer than expected, or that is heavier than usual also merits medical examination.
Postmenopausal bleeding, unless expected on hormone therapy, is also worrisome and should be evaluated.
Usually, the evaluation will include an endometrial biopsy, in which a doctor takes a small tissue sample from inside the uterus for testing.
A Pap smear should be part of every woman’s routine medical care.
Unexpected weight loss, night sweats, or fever
These nonspecific symptoms might be present with several different types of cancer.
Various infections can lead to similar symptoms (for example, tuberculosis).
Continued itching in the anal or genital area
Precancerous or cancerous conditions of the skin of the genital or anal areas can cause persistent itching.
Some cancers cause skin color changes.
Several infections or skin conditions (for example, fungal infections or psoriasis) also can cause these symptoms. If itching does not stop with over-the-counter topical medications, your doctor should inspect the area.
Sores generally heal quickly. If an area fails to heal, you may have cancer and should see a doctor.
Nonhealing sores in your mouth or persistent white or red patches on your gums, tongue, or tonsils are also should raise concerns.
Some nonhealing sores may be due to poor circulation (for example, diabetic foot ulcers).
Headaches have many causes (for example, migraines, aneurysms) but cancer is not a common one.
A severe unrelenting headache that feels different from usual can be a sign of cancer, but aneurysms may present in the same way.
If your headache fails to improve with over-the-counter medications, see a doctor promptly.
Back pain, pelvic pain, bloating, or indigestion
These are common symptoms of daily life, often related to food intake, muscle spasms or strains, but they also can be seen in ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is particularly difficult to treat, because it is frequently diagnosed late in the course of the disease.
The American Cancer Society and other organizations have been trying to make both patients and physicians more aware and consider this diagnosis if the classic symptoms are present.
Diagnosis of Cancer (Lab Tests):
High or low levels of certain substances in your body can be a sign of cancer as early mentioned in this article. So, lab tests of the blood, urine, or other body fluids that measure these substances can help doctors make a diagnosis. However, abnormal lab results are not a sure sign of cancer. Lab tests are an important tool, but doctors cannot rely on them alone to diagnose cancer.
Imaging procedures create pictures of areas inside your body that help the doctor see whether a tumor is present. These pictures can be made in several ways:
An x-ray machine linked to a computer takes a series of detailed pictures of your organs. You may receive a dye or other contrast material to highlight areas inside the body. Contrast material helps make these pictures easier to read.
For this scan, you receive an injection of a small amount of radioactive material, which is sometimes called a tracer. It flows through your bloodstream and collects in certain bones or organs. A machine called a scanner detects and measures the radioactivity. The scanner creates pictures of bones or organs on a computer screen or on film. Your body gets rid of the radioactive substance quickly. This type of scan may also be called radionuclide scan.
An ultrasound device sends out sound waves that people cannot hear. The waves bounce off tissues inside your body like an echo. A computer uses these echoes to create a picture of areas inside your body. This picture is called a sonogram.
A strong magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures of areas in your body. Your doctor can view these pictures on a monitor and print them on film.
For this scan, you receive an injection of a tracer. Then, a machine makes 3-D pictures that show where the tracer collects in the body. These scans show how organs and tissues are working.
X-rays use low doses of radiation to create pictures of the inside of your body.
A biopsy is a procedure in which the doctor removes a sample of tissue. A pathologist then looks at the tissue under a microscope to see if it is cancer. In most cases, doctors need to do a biopsy to make a diagnosis of cancer. The part of tissue can be removed in several ways:
With a needle: The doctor uses a needle to withdraw tissue or fluid.
With an endoscope: The doctor looks at areas inside the body using a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope. The scope is inserted through a natural opening, such as the mouth. Then, the doctor uses a special tool to remove tissue or cells through the tube.
With surgery: Surgery may be excisional or incisional.
In an excisional biopsy, the surgeon removes the entire tumor. Often some of the normal tissue around the tumor also is removed.
In an incisional biopsy, the surgeon removes just part of the tumor.