You’ve been there before, hovering over the toilet bowl panicking because you saw some blood in your stool. Or you’ve been dealing with periodic episodes of stomach pain and start mentally spiraling as you fear the worst. You decide to Google your symptoms and discover that some of them sound like cancer! If that sounds familiar, this article is for you.
The first and main fact you should know about cancer is that it’s a systemic illness.
Even though you have symptoms in one body part, like the breast or colon, your whole body is involved when you have cancer.
This means that you will almost always have systemic symptoms, and more than one. These usually include:
Unintentional weight loss
Loss of appetite
These symptoms are also typically persistent, meaning you’ve had them for more than a few weeks, and possibly even worsening.
If you don’t have any of the above symptoms, it’s more than likely that you don’t have cancer.
Cancer is both a metabolic and immunologic disease, which is why your whole body is affected. The immune system and endocrine system send out signals that affect and regulate your whole body.
If there is cancer in an organ, the organ’s function will change, but you will also feel changes in your entire body.
It’s also important to remember that there are different types of cancers. The type of cancer someone has leads to more specific symptoms. In bladder cancer there might be bloody urine, whereas in brain cancer there might be confusion, for example.
Almost any symptom you put into Google can be associated with a particular cancer. This is why it can be easy to mistake your symptoms for cancer.
Certain other diseases can resemble cancer, but these are usually ongoing, unresolved systemic illnesses. Chronic infections, HIV/AIDs, or rheumatoid conditions can have systemic symptoms like night sweats or fatigue.
These conditions also involve the immunologic and endocrine systems. It’s important to visit a doctor for regular checkups and basic labs like complete blood count as these labs can screen you for these sorts of illnesses.
Another important consideration is whether or not your family members have cancer. If your mom, dad, or siblings were at some point diagnosed with cancer, then you’re more likely to develop it at some point. It doesn’t mean you always will, it’s just another factor to keep in mind.
If you have any of the above systemic symptoms, it’s a good idea to go get checked out. If not, you probably have a separate, less serious issue. Whatever the case may be, working with a professional can help you determine what the cause of your symptoms are.
If you have any doubts about your health, you should always see a doctor sooner rather than later.
Remember that practicing the fundamentals of health, such as healthy eating and exercise, are known protective factors against every disease. Ensuring that you live a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to put your mind at ease when it comes to your health.