Beyond the Lump: Cancer Symptoms We Shouldn't Ignore

Not only is it National Cancer Prevention Month, but today, February 4, 2015, is World Cancer Day http://www.worldcancerday.org/ and Sound Options takes a look at the symptoms you shouldn’t be ignoring. WCD is about taking a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, highlighting that solutions do exist across the continuum of cancer, and that they are #notbeyondus, but within our reach.   

Symptoms are actually a sophisticated language our bodies use to alert us that something is going on. Like any language, some words are more subtle than others. For the most part, we are pretty good at ignoring or living with smaller symptoms and waiting until our bodies are shouting for attention, but not surprisingly, we can learn a lot and by listening sooner. When it comes to cancer, the proverbial lump comes to mind, but in reality, by the time we can feel a mass, it is actually quite large. So, what are we missing and what can we be looking for?

80% of prevention is attention! When you look at your body’s behavior, think: data. The way it operates and feels is constantly feeding you information about your environment, your mental state, and your internal workings. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 7 signs and symptoms you should not ignore:

1. Unexplained weight loss

2. Persistent or high fever

3. Shortness of breath

4. Unexplained changes in bowel or bladder habits

5. Confusion or personality changes

6. Feeling full after eating very little

7. Flashes of light

The National Institute for aging also adds these 5 symptoms to the list:

  1. discomfort after eating
  2. a hard time swallowing
  3. hoarseness or a cough that doesn’t go away
  4. a sore that doesn’t heal
  5. feeling weak or very tired

The important thing to remember when really listening to our bodies is to listen for repeating patterns. When our bodies are trying to get our attention, they are going to tell us something more than one time. Think of young children saying, “Mom…mom…mom…mom.” Not every symptom is going to signal the worst, but it is better to be attentive to our bodies as well as communicative in our doctor appointments. Coupled with regular medical care, and healthy lifestyle, our attention is one of the best weapons we have in the fight against cancer and chronic disease. 

Published on February 4, 2015.