By the year 2020, it’s estimated 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer within their lifetime, according to Dr. Ioana Bonta, a medical oncologist with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan.
Early diagnosis is key in treating the disease, and that means paying attention to your body and possible cancerous symptoms.
Dr. Bonta listed 10 key symptoms of cancer people often overlook.
Those symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fever of unknown origin
- Night sweats
- New or unexplained pain
- Persistent heartburn
- Mouth or tongue sores that don’t heal
- Irregular bowel patterns
- Unexplained lumps
- Trouble swallowing
Another symptom that tends to unexpectedly show up and change over time is a mole that grows and has irregular borders or bleeds, Bonta stated.
“Those are the earliest complaints we hear over and over again from cancer patients and studies show these symptoms are the most common,” she said.
“These symptoms are often misidentified because they are not specific to just cancer, and therefore can be attributable to other health issues. For example, someone who suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and regularly experiences an irregular bowel pattern does not necessarily assume his or her symptoms could be a sign of colorectal cancer …”
While these symptoms can be important in diagnosing and treating cancer in its earliest stages, the Bonta does not want people to immediately panic from what they read on the list.
“For instance with lymphoma, the symptoms will be in conjunction with each other: chills, fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss. A common symptom of ovarian cancer is bloating and early satiety, but many women may attribute fluid buildup or bloating to normal weight gain,” she said. “We don’t want to induce anxiety. Not every back pain will be cancer. If you take some over-the-counter medication, and it doesn’t resolve in 2-3 weeks or longer, then it’s time to talk with a medical professional.
“Be an advocate for yourself,” Bonta continued. “If your symptoms persist, then something needs to be done about it.”
The medical oncologist believes anxiety of the unknown and a potential cancer diagnosis also prevents people from seeking medical advice.
“I think we, as a community, need to spread the word about cancer screenings and early detection,” Bonta said. “An early detection of cancer will benefit patients. Being aware of cancer screenings will help people be diagnosed at an earlier stage of the disease.
“There’s some sort of stigma attached with a cancer diagnosis. I don’t know why this is,” Bonta continued. “A cancer diagnosis or illness is not something to be ashamed of, it’s something to overcome.”
The medical oncologist recommended people look at the screening guidelines set forth by the American Cancer Society of theand the United States Preventive Services Task Force. Screening guidelines are available at https://www.cancer.org/healthy/find-cancer-early.html and https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/
Both websites suggest an age range for people to begin seeking preventative care, unless on-going health issues require folks to talk to their doctors immediately.
Some of those screenings include: mammograms, colonoscopy, pap smears, prostate exam and a CT chest scan for lung disease.
A recent study by the American Cancer Society epidemiologists found at least 42 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in the United States are potentially avoidable, Bonta said.