What comes to mind when you hear the word cancer? For someone who is a survivor, it might invoke a feeling of gratitude or triumph. On the other hand, for someone with a history of breast cancer in the family, it might remind them of their need to be vigilant in preventive care. The truth is that it is very likely that you or someone you know has been affected in some way by cancer. Last year in the United States alone, there were over 1.7 million new cases diagnosed.
To an oncologist, the word cancer represents a vast array of illnesses, many involving tumors, to be treated medically, surgically, or with radiation. An oncologist is a specialized physician who years of training in the diagnosis, staging, and latest treatments of cancer. The good news is that there’s a great deal of cancer research going on, and new advances are improving our ability to treat it. Most likely, your primary care doctor will be the first place you go with any concerns and after running tests, they will refer you to see an oncologist.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CANCER
There are many different types of cancer, and each has its own specific symptoms, but there are a few things common to many forms cancers that you should be aware of.
- Any time you have a new or unusual bump or lump on your body, you should get it checked out. This also includes any mole that you’ve had for a while that has changed. Moles that change, grow, have irregular borders, and multiple colors could be skin cancer. On the same note, any new ulcer or sore, including inside the mouth should be evaluated.
- Any changes in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation) or increased indigestion, nausea, loss of appetite, or difficulty swallowing should be concerning.
- A new, persistent cough or hoarseness could also be a sign of cancer.
- You should discuss any unexplained weight loss, pain, fatigue or night sweats with your doctor.
- Any abnormal bleeding (urine, stool, vaginal) should also be investigated. Difficulty urinating can be normal as you get older, but it is always good to let your doctor know if you experience this.
Oftentimes, your doctor will order laboratory tests as preventive care or because you are not feeling well. Screenings are the best tool to catch cancer early. This is why you should see your doctors regularly and get tested for various cancers routinely based on your age, gender, and health risks. This will help your doctors catch cancer early on, so you can quickly get rid of it.
COMMON CANCERS IN THE UNITED STATES
The four cancers most common in the United States are colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer, and all have some recommendations for prevention and/or detection.
- Colon cancer often runs in families, so if you have a family history of it, you should discuss it with your doctor. Screening will generally be recommended to begin 10 years before you hit the age of the first-generation family member who was diagnosed. Otherwise, you should begin colon cancer screening at age 50. The gold standard for screening is a colonoscopy, performed every 10 years, or earlier depending on the findings of your last procedure. The most commonly reported symptom of colon cancer is a change in bowel habits, followed by rectal bleeding, a rectal or abdominal mass, fatigue, and abdominal pain.
- Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths and is often related to environmental risk factors, the most common one being smoking. This is one of the many reasons that quitting smoking is so important. If you do smoke, your doctor may recommend frequent screenings for cancer with a CT of the chest.
- Breast cancer is often hereditary. Most women begin having mammograms at the age of 50, although those with a family history should begin earlier. It is important that any woman who notices a change in her breasts, is having breast pain, or nipple discharge see their doctor to be examined.
- Prostate cancer can also run in families and is a risk for older men. Any problems with urination or blood in your urine should be brought to the attention of your doctor.
ONCOLOGIST IN WOOSTER, OHIO
At Wooster Community Hospital, we are committed to providing you the best cancer care available. That is why we have collaborated with The James Cancer Network at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Our highly skilled team is here for you. To schedule a consultation with an oncologist, call The Wooster Cancer Care office at (330) 262-2800 or request an appointment now.