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This "Deadly" Cancer Needs to Be Caught Early

A doctor explains why early detection is vital,
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Although there's no cure for cancer yet, the survival rate has increased significantly over recent years thanks in part to advances in treatment options and annual screenings.  According to the American Cancer Society, "The risk of dying from cancer in the United States has decreased over the past 28 years according to annual statistics reported by the American Cancer Society (ACS). The cancer death rate for men and women combined fell 32% from its peak in 1991 to 2019, the most recent year for which data were available." That said, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the United States and early detection is key to beating it. Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies explains how all cancers need to be caught early, but certain cancers can be a death sentence if not detected soon enough. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Not All Cancer is the Same

prostate cancer

Dr. Mitchell shares, "Cancer is a six-letter word that nobody wants to hear. It sparks fear in even the most stoic of people. However, fortunately, not all cancers are the same, and the diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. There are different types of cancer with varying degrees of severity. For example, some types of cancer can be treated with surgery, while others may require radiation or chemotherapy.

Cancer can sometimes go into remission, meaning that the patients will no longer require treatment. However, it is essential to remember that cancer is a severe illness that should not be taken lightly. Early detection is key to increasing the chances of successful treatment. If you have any concerns about your health, you must speak to a doctor as soon as possible.

As a physician, I am constantly reminded of the fragility of life. Every day, I see patients fighting for their lives against an invisible enemy. And while I am hopeful that medical science will continue to progress in the fight against cancer, some forms of the disease remain particularly difficult to treat. These are the cancers that typically have a grave diagnosis. And while we may not always be able to offer a cure, we can provide our patients with the support they need to face their disease with courage and hope. We can be there for them through their journey's darkest days and help them find the strength to keep fighting."


Why is Early Detection so Vital with Cancer?

Doctor explaining lungs x-ray on computer screen to patient

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Early detection is vital for cancer because it allows for early treatment. The earlier cancer is caught, the better the chance of survival. In addition, early detection often leads to less invasive and less expensive treatments. When cancer is detected early, it is usually confined to one area of the body, making it easier to treat effectively with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. By contrast, when cancer is allowed to progress unchecked, it often spreads to other body parts, making treatment much more difficult. In addition, early detection of cancer usually allows for more personalized treatment plans. Doctors can tailor treatments to the individual based on the type and stage of cancer. This leads to better outcomes and a higher quality of life for patients. Therefore, early detection is essential for people with cancer."


Why Are Some Cancers Challenging to Detect?

Doctor examining woman in hospital. Female patient listens to mammography technologist during survey. Explains importance of breast cancer prevention

According to Dr. Mitchell, "While there are many different types of cancer, they all have one thing in common: the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Cancer can develop in any body part, and each type grows and spreads differently. As a result, some cancers are much more difficult to detect than others. For example, cancers that develop in internal organs are often not found until they have reached an advanced stage. This is because symptoms usually do not appear until cancer has grown large enough to press on surrounding tissues or organs. Other types of cancer, such as skin cancer, are much easier to detect because they are visible on the body's surface. However, even skin cancer can be challenging to see if it is small or early stage. Early detection is essential for successful treatment, so it is vital to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer and to see a doctor for regular screenings."


Ovarian Cancer

risk of cancer

Dr. Mitchell states, "Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries. The ovaries are two small, almond-shaped organs on each side of the uterus. They produce eggs that travel through the fallopian tubes and eventually implant in the uterus. Ovarian cancer is often called a "silent killer" because it doesn't usually cause symptoms until it has spread outside the ovary. By the time ovarian cancer is diagnosed, it has often spread to other parts of the body, such as the lining of the abdomen or lungs. This makes ovarian cancer challenging to treat and leads to a meager survival rate. 

For this reason, it is essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. These can include bloating, pelvic pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary urgency or frequency. If you experience these symptoms regularly, you must see your doctor for a checkup. Although ovarian cancer is a severe disease, if caught at the early stage, the 5-year survival for ovarian cancer is about 80%. This makes early detection essential to increasing your chances of survival if you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer."


Pancreatic Cancer

Doctor in white medical lab coat points ballpoint pen on anatomical model of human or animal pancreas

"Pancreatic cancer starts in the tissues of your pancreas — an organ in your abdomen that lies behind the lower part of your stomach," says Dr. Mitchell. "Your pancreas releases enzymes that help digestion and produces hormones that help manage your blood sugar.  Pancreatic cancer can spread quickly to nearby organs. Unfortunately, it often goes undetected until it's advanced because early signs and symptoms are vague. Cancer might have already spread beyond your pancreas by the time signs and symptoms develop. Pancreatic cancer has a very high mortality rate, with only about 10% of people with the disease surviving for more than five years after diagnosis. This is because most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage when surgery isn't possible. However, those diagnosed early have a better chance of successful treatment. 

There are several possible risk factors for pancreatic cancer, including: 

-Smoking: Cigarette smoking is the most critical risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

-Age: Pancreatic cancer is more common in older adult

-Chronic pancreatitis

-Family history of pancreatic cancer."


Brain Cancer


Dr. Mitchell explains, "Brain cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the brain's cells. The brain is a complex organ that controls many of the body's functions. It is made up of many different types of cells. Cancer starts when normal cells change and grow out of control. Brain cancer can be challenging to diagnose because the symptoms can be vague and nonspecific. They may include headaches, seizures, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and changes in mood or personality. Brain cancer may also cause vision, hearing, balance, and coordination problems. Brain cancer is usually treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The treatment type depends on the tumor size and location, as well as the patient's age and overall health. The goal of treatment is to remove all cancerous cells while causing as minor damage to healthy tissue as possible."

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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