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This is Normally the First Sign of "Deadly Cancer"

Doctor shares five signs of terminally ill cancer. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Cancer was the second leading cause of death, after heart disease, in the United States in 2020. There were 602,350 cancer deaths; 284,619 were among females and 317,731 among males." When cancer is advanced, the disease can't be controlled and treatment is ineffective, therefore making the diagnosis end-stage cancer. "While significant progress has been made in treatment and care, cancer remains a difficult diagnosis," Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells us. "The journey with cancer is often long and challenging, with many ups and downs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with cancer, as each individual and each family must find their way. Only by understanding the unique ways that cancer affects each person can we hope to provide the best possible care for all patients." She adds, "While most cancers are highly treatable, a small number of cases are considered untreatable. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you must be aware of the signs that could indicate that your cancer is untreatable. Here are five signs to watch out for."  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Wide Ranging Symptoms

skin cancer screening

Dr. Mitchell says, "Cancer is a disease that can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on where it is located in the body. In its early stages, cancer may not cause any symptoms at all. However, as the disease progresses, it can affect organ function and cause various symptoms. For example, when cancer has spread to multiple organs, this can be a sign that the condition is no longer responding to treatment. In many cases, patients with advanced cancer will experience fatigue, pain, weight loss, and other significant symptoms. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you must speak with your doctor as soon as possible to discuss your treatment options."


The Cancer is Resistant to Multiple Types of Treatment

Woman Receiving Radiation Therapy Treatments for Breast Cancer

Dr. Mitchell shares, "One of the most frustrating things about cancer is that it can often resist treatment. In some cases, this might indicate that the cancer is untreatable. However, there are a few possible explanations for why this resistance occurs. First, cancers can develop mutations that make them resistant to specific drugs. Second, cancer might produce proteins that pump the drugs out of the cells before they can affect them. Finally, cancer might create a barrier preventing drugs from reaching the tumor cells. Regardless of the cause, cancer resistance is a severe problem that needs to be addressed."


Cancer is Growing Rapidly

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Cancer proliferating might be a sign that the cancer is untreatable. When the cancerous cells grow and divide faster, they might create abnormal cells. These abnormal cells would then divide out of control and kill healthy cells nearby, making a tumor. The faster the growth of the tumor, the more likely it is that the cancer has metastasized or spread to other parts of the body. In this case, the cancer is more challenging to treat and may be untreatable. If you notice that your cancer is growing rapidly, it is essential to consult with your doctor so that they can determine the best course of treatment."


You Experience Severe Side Effects from Treatment that Outweigh the Benefits

Doctor explaining lungs x-ray on computer screen to patient

"One of the most challenging decisions that patients and their families face is whether or not to begin treatment when the side effects might be worse than the disease itself," Dr. Mitchell says. "This is a tough decision, and there is no easy answer. In some cases, beginning treatment is the best option, even if the side effects are severe. This is often the case when the disease is life-threatening or when treatment offers the best chance for a cure. However, in other cases, the side effects of treatment may be so severe that they outweigh any potential benefit. In these situations, patients and their families must weigh the risks and benefits of treatment before making a decision. Therefore, it is a complex and personal decision that must be made with care and thoughtfulness."


Loss of Function

risk of cancer

Dr. Mitchell explains, "One potential sign that cancer is resistant to treatment is a loss of body function. This can manifest in many ways, from being unable to perform basic tasks like getting out of bed or brushing one's teeth to being completely bedridden. In some cases, this loss of function may be temporary, and the individual may eventually regain strength. However, in other cases, it may be more permanent. For example, suppose you or a loved one are experiencing a sudden and unexplained loss of body function. In that case, it is essential to speak with a doctor as soon as possible, as it may indicate that the cancer is resistant to treatment."


Find a Support System


Dr. Mitchell urges, "If you experience these signs, you must speak with your doctor as soon as possible. While an untreatable cancer diagnosis may be daunting, many options are still available for managing the disease and maintaining a good quality of life.

If your cancer is untreatable, you can take a few steps to manage your care. First, it is essential to develop a support system of family and friends who can offer emotional and practical assistance. It would help if you also considered speaking with a counselor or similar professional to help you deal with the psychological impact of a terminal diagnosis.

As hard as this might be to accept, sometimes the best treatment for a cancer patient, when the cancer is untreatable, is to do your best to be comfortable. In addition, you will need to work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that focuses on symptom management rather than trying to cure the disease. This may include medications to control pain, nausea, and other symptoms and radiation therapy or surgery to address specific issues.

Finally, it is essential to make the most of the time you have left by doing things that bring you joy and spending time with the people you love. It is also crucial to ensure that your final wishes are carried out. This includes setting up a power of attorney, making funeral arrangements, and writing a will. These things can seem daunting, but taking care of them is essential so that you can focus on spending time with those who mean the most to them."

Dr. Mitchell says this "doesn't constitute medical advice and by no means are these answers meant to be comprehensive. Rather, it's to encourage discussions about health choices."

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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