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I am a Doctor and Here's How to Tell If You Have "Deadly Cancer"

Learn how to lower the risk of cancer and signs you have a deadly type. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Cancer is a shocking and terrifying diagnosis that nobody is ever prepared for. It's a life-changing event that leaves most people asking, 'Am I going to live?" and in many cases, yes. Cancer treatments have come a long way in recent years thanks to advances in medicine and technology. While it's not an easy journey, many types of cancer are beatable. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, "Overall cancer death rates decreased by 2.1% per year in men and women combined. Among men, death rates decreased by 2.3% per year; among women, death rates decreased by 1.9% per year. The annual declines in death rate accelerated from 2001 to 2019 in both men and women. The declines in death rates were steepest in lung cancer and melanoma (by 4% to 5% per year) among both men and women. Death rates increased for cancers of the pancreas, brain, and bones and joints among men, and for cancers of the pancreas and uterus among women."

While it's exciting to see the survival rate increasing, cancer is still the second leading cause of death. "While it is true that cancer is much more treatable today than it was in the past, there are still many reasons why it remains the second leading cause of death," Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells us. "One of the biggest challenges in treating cancer is that it is often not detected until it has already spread to other body parts. By the time most people are diagnosed, cancer has already progressed to a late stage and is much more challenging to treat. In addition, cancer treatment can be costly, making it out of reach for many people. Finally, even with medical advances, some types of cancer are still complicated to cure. For all these reasons, cancer remains a significant public health problem."

Dr. Mitchell adds, "Cancer is a potentially deadly disease that can strike without warning. However, many types of cancer produce early warning signs that are often overlooked or dismissed as unrelated to the disease. Below are four signs of cancer that people often forget. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Some Types of Cancer Are Not Treatable

Woman in her 30s sits by her living room window with a cup of tea and looks out contemplatively. She is a cancer survivor and is wearing a headscarf.

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Cancer is a broad term for a class of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. While there are many different types of cancer, they all share the exact primary mechanism: the body's normal cell division goes awry, resulting in an uncontrollable proliferation of cells. This can lead to the formation of tumors, which can cause serious health problems by crowding out normal tissue and interfering with vital organ functions. 

Cancer cells are also adept at evading the body's immune system, making them extremely difficult to eliminate. In addition, cancer cells often mutate rapidly, making them resistant to traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. As a result, cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Though significant progress has been made in recent years, there is still no cure for cancer."


How to Lower the Risk of Cancer

Doctor explaining lungs x-ray on computer screen to patient

Dr. Mitchell emphasizes, "While there is no surefire way to prevent cancer, there are several steps that people can take to lower their risk. For example, quitting smoking is one of the essential things that smokers can do to reduce their risk of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking is linked to about 20% of all cancer deaths in the United States. People who quit smoking reduce their risk of developing cancer, as well as their risk of dying from cancer. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise can also help lower cancer risk. 

Excess weight is linked to an increased risk of developing several types of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancer. Exercise, on the other hand, helps to boost the immune system and protect against cell damage. Finally, eating a healthy diet is another essential step in lowering cancer risk. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps to protect against cell damage, while a diet high in processed meats and sugary foods increases the risk of developing cancer. By taking these simple steps, people can significantly lower their risk of developing cancer."


Unexplained Weight Loss

weight loss

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Sudden, unexplained weight loss is often one of the first signs of cancer. Cancer cells use a lot of energy, causing the body to burn calories and store fat more quickly. As a result, people with cancer often lose weight even if they are eating the same amount or more than they did before. In addition, cancer cells often release substances that interfere with the body's ability to absorb and use nutrients from food. These substances can cause weight loss by preventing the body from getting the necessary calories and nutrients. Cancer-related weight loss can be a difficult and frustrating experience. However, it is essential to remember that this weight loss is not necessarily indicative of poor health or prospects for recovery. Cancer patients should speak with their doctor about managing weight loss and maintaining their overall health.

Weight loss can also be caused by other factors, such as stress or changes in diet, but it is often one of the first indicators that something is wrong. If you have lost a significant amount of weight without explanation, it's essential to see a doctor so that any potential health problems can be ruled out. Cancer is a severe illness, but it is treatable if caught early. That's why it's essential to be aware of any changes in your body and to see a doctor if something doesn't seem right."



Woman sleeping on the couch in the living room.

Dr. Mitchell says, "Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness that is not relieved by rest. It can be a symptom of many different conditions, including cancer. Cancer-related fatigue is often described as profound exhaustion not relieved by sleep or rest. It can affect people of all ages and can be one of the earliest signs of cancer. Cancer-related fatigue can be caused by cancer, the treatments used to treat it, or other factors such as anxiety or anemia. It can also be a side effect of certain medications. 

Despite its well-known link to cancer, fatigue is often overlooked as a symptom because it is so common and can be caused by several conditions. However, if you are experiencing severe, persistent fatigue and are not relieved by rest, it is essential to see your doctor for a complete evaluation. Fatigue should never be ignored as it could be an early sign of cancer."



stomach pain

It's a fact in life that everyone experiences pain at some point," Dr. Mitchell states. "Whether a paper cut or a broken bone, pain is our body's way of telling us something is wrong. However, when it comes to cancer, pain can often be an early warning sign that something is wrong. Cancer pain is one of the most common symptoms that leads people to seek medical help. 

There are many different types of cancer pain, but it is often described as a deep, constant ache. It may be aggravated by movement or pressure, ranging from mild to debilitating. If you are experiencing cancer pain, you must see a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection is critical when treating cancer, and pain is often one of the first signs that something is wrong."


Changes in Bowel Habits

Door knob on or off the bathroom

Dr. Mitchell tells us, "A change in bowel habits is often one of the first signs that something may be wrong with your health. For example, if you notice a sudden change in your bowel habits that lasts more than a couple of weeks, it could be a sign of cancer. For example, you may notice more or less frequent bowel movements, or your stool is much more complicated or softer than usual. These changes can sometimes be due to other factors, such as stress or a change in diet, but if they persist, it's essential to see a doctor to rule out cancer. In some cases, a change in bowel habits can be an early sign of colon cancer, so it's essential to be aware of this potential symptom.

Most everyone is familiar with the primary symptoms of cancer: fatigue, weight loss, and pain. Bowel changes are one of the most common early symptoms of colorectal cancer. This type of cancer typically begins as small growths called polyps. Over time, these polyps can become cancerous. People with colorectal cancer may experience a change in their bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea. They may also notice blood in their stool. These changes can be subtle, so it's essential to be aware of any changes in your body and to see a doctor if you have any concerns. Early detection is key to successful treatment, so don't ignore changes in bowel habits, another common sign of the disease."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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