Cancer is one of the scariest things in the world. To think that something might be growing within your body, spreading like wildfire and killing you.
But how does cancer start? What are some early signs of it? How do they diagnose it once they know about it?
We will answer all these questions and more in this comprehensive guide to diagnosing cancer!
So get your notes ready, you’re about to learn some very important information on detecting cancer and cancer diagnosis.
What Is Cancer? What Do We Know About It?
Cancer is a disease of cells. Most commonly, it occurs when your body starts producing mutated cells that grow uncontrollably and don’t die off as they should – this causes tumors to form.
These cancerous growths can begin in almost any part of the body and affect all different tissue types, from skin cells to bone marrow cells to liver or lymphatic system tissues.
It’s estimated that around one-third of cancers are caused by heredity factors you can’t control (like family history).
At the same time, another third occur because you didn’t take care of yourself enough throughout life (smoking, drinking a lot). The final one-third could be prevented through better lifestyle choices.
Early Signs of Cancer
Cancer doesn’t always have symptoms in the early stages. The only way to know for sure is if you get checked out by a doctor when anything seems off with your body.
The earlier cancer is caught, the easier it will be to treat and – often – a cure! Some common signs aren’t exclusive or specific to any one type of cancer (though they may indicate something else instead) but do warrant an appointment with your physician:
- General fatigue/lack of energy; especially after getting treatment like chemo, radiation therapy, or surgery
- Persistent bloating/weight gain without trying
- Changes in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea) in urinary frequency/urgency
- Persistent cough
- Swelling in your legs or ankles
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, get checked out right away! Your doctor will be able to help diagnose the cause and take action if it’s cancer.
How Does Diagnosis Occur?
Once your doctor suspects cancer, they will run a whole battery of tests to determine what type you have.
If the tumor is in an easy-to-reach spot like your skin or underarm area, sometimes they can do a biopsy. This involves running some exploratory surgery on a frozen section and taking samples from the tissue inside!
This isn’t always possible, though. Tumors can be found in all sorts of hard-to-reach places that are difficult, if not impossible, to reach without surgical tools.
To get every last cell sample needed, doctors use something called fine-needle aspiration instead. It works just how it sounds: they stick a long thin needle into the mass itself and take out little bits at a time. This is often done in conjunction with actual surgery to get the rest of the tumor tissue they need.
If you have cancer, doctors will also run a full scan of your body and take some blood tests – this is because people who develop cancer tend to feel sicker than usual for no apparent reason (this is called “symptom spotting”), and we must know why!
Cancerous cells can spread throughout all parts of your body very quickly. Sometimes, even before you know it, it exists within one place. So by scanning every nook-and-cranny inside, there isn’t any room left for surprises like metastasis or secondary tumors popping up elsewhere.
Doctors may use an imaging tool called a CT scan to look at the inside of your body, but this has its limitations. Instead, they might also use a PET scan or an MRI – these are much more sensitive and can pick up on cancer cells even if it’s too small for other imaging tools to notice!
How Was Cancer Diagnosed In the Past?
If you are old enough to remember your grandparents or great-grandparents, they likely had some very different ways of diagnosing cancer. Even though medical science has made giant leaps forward since then, there was a lot of good practice back in the day!
People used to use unique gadgets called stethoscopes to listen for unusual sounds inside people’s chests – doctors thought these odd noises might indicate problems with organs like the heart and lungs. Doctors also looked at skin tone changes (like if someone’s color suddenly darkened) and more obvious symptoms of illness – weight loss is one prominent example!
Nowadays, we have better tools available, which makes diagnosis much easier than before. However, sometimes this can make us complacent and lead to some potentially dangerous mistakes.
A significant example of this is the over-prescription of antibiotics. Many physicians were quick to blame infections on bacteria – without looking at other potential causes first!
As a result, we ended up with an epidemic of antibiotic resistance: all sorts of bugs that had mutated into super germs which no longer responded to treatment (nowadays, doctors call these strains “superbugs”).
While it’s good news for your doctor if you only have a superficial bacterial infection like strep throat, they also need to be careful not to jump straight in treating something as serious as cancer using powerful drugs before ruling out everything else first.
How to Deal With the Mental Stress of Cancer
The best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones is to know as much about cancer as possible.
Educate yourselves, take notes of all the information that’s helpful (and potentially life-saving), and don’t be afraid to ask questions if they’re something you’re unsure of – doctors want patients like us to understand what we’re going through!
There are also tons of free resources online. These articles will help give a starting point but follow up with professional advice from medical staff before taking any action towards treatment or diagnosis.
Cancer isn’t an easy topic by any means, and it takes courage every day just getting out of bed when everything seems like too much! But never underestimate the power of knowledge: being well informed always makes dealing with cancer just a little bit easier.
And don’t forget to take care of yourself! If you’re living with this illness, it’s easy to lose track of your life and everything that makes you happy.
Remember all the things about YOU – the hobbies, sports, or activities that made waking up worth it before! Take time out for yourself every day by doing something good for both mind and body.
Proven Things That Help Prevent Cancer Growth
The three most common ways to prevent cancer growth are quitting smoking, keeping a healthy weight, and staying away from alcohol. Of course, this is easier said than done! While there’s no such thing as “perfect health,” it all starts with the individual: take care of yourself!
You can’t change your genetics (and neither should you want to), but there are lots of things you can do for both prevention and early detection.
For instance, eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies has been shown time and time again by experts to reduce risk factors associated with certain cancers – one study suggests that an extra serving per day could cut bowel cancer risks by up to 40 percent!
Regular exercise also helps keep our cells strong against attack: just 30 minutes a day can lower cancer risk by up to 15 percent!
And remember: early detection is the best prevention! Be on the lookout for any changes in your body, and don’t be afraid to talk about them with doctors – don’t wait till it’s too late. In some cases, cancers are avoidable and utterly curable if caught at stage one or two.
You may have heard stories of people who went from “terminal” diagnoses straight back into good health again: this isn’t luck. These people were lucky enough to catch their cancer when it was still small enough that treatment could work miracles! So trust yourself and listen carefully when you ask questions because knowledge is power here.
We hope this guide has helped you understand cancer diagnosis and that it’s given you some helpful information to share with your doctor.
Now educate yourself on the topic, take notes of what is most important (make sure not to forget about early detection!), and never be afraid to ask questions if something makes sense!
And remember: knowledge is power in dealing with cancer.
If all else fails, there are also many free resources online. Don’t lose track of who you are either – keep doing things that make waking up worth it every day, even when living with cancer isn’t easy!