What are the symptoms of cancer?
The most prominent symptoms of cancer include the following:
- A sore that doesn't heal
- A wart or mole that changes
- An unusual lump anywhere in the body
- A persistent cough/hoarseness
- Indigestion or problems swallowing
- Changes in bowel movement or urination habits
- Unusual weight loss
- Unusual bleeding or discharge from various parts of the
Please note that these symptoms do not mean that you definitely
have cancer. However, if any of these symptoms appear, you should
see your doctor right away.
How is cancer diagnosed?
If your doctor thinks you might have cancer, he or she will
examine you and might order certain tests, including:
- Blood and urine tests
- Imaging tests that allow the doctor to see the inside your body
to see if cancer is present (Imaging tests include X-rays, computed
tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI),
radionuclide scanning, and ultrasonography.)
- Biopsy (A procedure in which the doctor takes a small sample of
the tumor and analyzes it under a microscope.)
What is staging?
One of the biggest concerns about a cancer diagnosis is whether
the cancer has spread (metastasized) beyond its original location.
To determine this, the doctor assigns a number (I through IV) to
your diagnosis. The higher the number, the more the cancer has
spread throughout your body. This is called "staging." The doctor
needs this information in order to plan your treatment.
What are the treatments for cancer?
In order to treat your cancer, your doctor needs to know the
location of the tumor, the stage (whether it has spread), and
whether you are strong enough to handle the treatment.
Cancer treatment can take the following forms:
- Chemotherapy -- This treatment uses
powerful drugs that destroy the cancer cells. Chemotherapy is
delivered orally (pills) or through an intravenous (IV) line.
- Radiation -- This is a treatment
that kills cancerous cells with radiation (high-energy rays).
Radiation therapy can either be internal (placed within the body)
or external (delivered by a machine outside the body).
NOTE: In some cases, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are
given to a patient at the same time.
- Surgery -- A surgeon removes the tumor,
along with the surrounding area (in some cases).
- Hormone therapy -- Hormones (substances
produced by the glands to regulate organ functions) might be given
to the patient to block other hormones that might cause cancer. For
example, men with prostate cancer might be given hormones to keep
testosterone (which contributes to prostate cancer) at bay.
- Biological response modifier therapy --
Biological response modifier therapy uses natural or artificial
(created in a laboratory) materials to reconstruct the body's
natural defenses against disease. Biological therapy includes
monoclonal antibody therapy and vaccines. (Monoclonal antibodies
are created in a laboratory to work like natural antibodies, which
are produced by the body's immune system to fight
- Stem cell transplantation -- Stem cells
(immature cells from which all blood cells develop) are removed
from the patient's circulating blood or bone marrow and then
returned after chemotherapy treatment.