Weight loss may be related to anxiety or thyroid problems, but it can also be related to stomach or pancreatic cancer, warns Dr Rajat Bajaj.
India is the third largest country with cancer patients.
Of the million new cases of cancer that are reported every year, 50% die due to ignorance and a lack of awareness.
What is cancer?
In simple terms, cancer is the uncontrolled multiplication of cells in the body that can attain dangerous proportions if not detected in time. But if detected in time we can be hopeful of conquering this disease and overcoming it by achieving cure.
While we we have adequate resources to fight cancer, it is a known fact that there is a lack of knowledge about cancer in our society. What this leads to, is delay in the diagnosis of cancer which can adversely affect outcomes.
There are certain symptoms in women they ignore which can be related to cancer.
It is not necessary that they pertain only to cancer but if you have one or more of these symptoms, you should get a consultation done from an oncologist.
It is known that in a young age one doesn’t tend to think of cancer, but this disease can affect any age. Hence one must be mindful of these symptoms, regardless of your age or family history.
According to the recent Globocon data, the most important cancers related to women in India are breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer and uterus cancer. These constitute more than 50% of all cancers in women in India.
Breast cancer has been found to be on a steep rise in our country in the last decade, mainly due to urbanization and western influences in our society.
The symptoms of these cancers can be vague at times, hence the following points should be kept in mind and not ignored. Only breast and cervical cancers can be detected through cancer screening.
So, knowing these important symptoms, recognising them and discussing about them with your gynecologist or your primary care doctor can increase your odds of finding cancer early, when it’s most curable.
1. Abnormal vaginal bleeding
If you're still getting periods and getting bleeding in between your periods (also called as spotting) you should consult your doctor.
Although it can have many causes like hormonal imbalance, medications, fibroid in uterus but if this problem happens regularly you should seek proper medical advice.
You should refrain from self medicating in such a situation. Your doctor will want to rule out endometrial cancer, which is the cancer of the lining of your uterus).
Be cautious if there is vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse as this could be a symptom of cervical cancer. Also, bleeding after attaining menopause is never normal and should be checked immediately.
2. Changes in your breast/s
It is normal to have changes in breast in the reproductive age group in women.
This can specially feel during menses and can be ranging from mild tenderness in breasts to experiencing lumps in breast. But if these lumps are too many and too often, they should be checked.
If you see any lump increasing in size over days or months, this should also be followed up diligently with your doctor.
Other changes in breast which require careful evaluation by your doctor are skin dumpling or puckering, inward turning of nipples, any nipple discharge and redness of skin on breast or nipple.
3. Unintentional weight loss
Normally many women will wish that they lose extra kilos of weight. But if you are losing weight without trying for it, which means without any recent modified diet plan or exercise there may be a reason to worry.
Although this weight loss may also be related to anxiety or thyroid problems, but it can also be related to stomach or pancreatic cancer. Hence such a symptom should not be ignored.
4. Blood in stool or urine
This symptom can cause concerns in the mind of patients as this certainly is not a normal phenomenon.
There can be many causes like piles or fissure for blood in stool.
A stone in urinary tract or urine infection can cause symptoms of blood in urine. But if persistent, such symptoms may be related to underlying cancer of gastrointestinal tract or urinary tract respectively.
Adequate investigations need to be done to rule out that problem. Hence it is best to consult your doctor and talk to him about your concerns regarding it.
5. Changes in lymph nodes
Lymph nodes are small glands in our body which are responsible for limiting the spread of any infection or inflammation in a concerned organ.
They are normally present in neck, chest, abdomen and pelvic region.
These can get enlarged and form multiple lumps in these regions of body in case your body develops any infection or in case of any inflammatory process. But at times, these lymph nodes can be enlarged in blood cancer like lymphoma. Hence, a consultation and proper evaluation by your doctor after investigations is needed to find out the cause of these nodal enlargement, should you have any.
Dr Rajat Bajaj is consultant, medical oncology, Fortis Hospital, Noida. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.