Early Cancer Detection: Symptoms and How to Help Yourself

Early cancer detection and prevention are some of the most important topics these days. Unfortunately, there are over a hundred kinds of cancers. They have different risk factors, prevalence rates; even the quality of research that has been dedicated to their study varies. This makes for a very murky picture for those who would like to take concrete steps to protect themselves. While there's no guarantee from cancer, this article discusses steps that you can take to minimize the risk of suffering or dying from the disease as much as possible.

Early detection is crucial as it enables treatment when the cancer is still localized in a small area. One way is to learn about possible symptoms. These symptoms are numerous and are often indicative of conditions that have nothing at all to do with cancer. Nonetheless, getting yourself to a doctor when you notice these symptoms is essential to ruling out cancer as early as possible.

1. You may notice strange growths or sores anywhere in the body: lumps; moles, strange changes to moles that you may already have; sores that don't seem to heal.

2. There can be changes to the functioning of the body as well. Such changes include: unexplained changes in body weight: gaining or loosing weight; discomfort during or after eating; difficulty swallowing; inexplicable fatigue.

3. You may also notice persistent coughs or hoarseness or even abnormal bleeding.

Another way to catch cancer early or to prevent it, is screening for signs of cancer or for the presence of factors that may lead to it before there are any symptoms. This is so that you can, with your doctor, take measures to prevent it or treat it before it becomes dangerous. Unfortunately, screening tests are not yet available for all forms of cancer.

1. There is the mammogram which checks for breast cancer. Be sure to have it done every one to two years if you're a woman aged forty years and over. Younger women who are at risk for developing this form of cancer should also do this routinely.

2. The Pap test checks for cervix cancer in women. Have it done three years after you become sexually active or when you turn twenty-one. The test should be done every three years thereafter.

3. There are several tests for colon and rectal cancer. They include: colonoscopy, digital rectal exam, fecal occult blood test, double contrast burial enema and sigmoidoscopy. Be sure to have the screening if you're at risk for colon cancer or if you're aged fifty years and over.

Finally, there are simple but crucial lifestyle choices that go a long way to preventing the most wide-spread forms of cancer. According to the Cancer Trends Progress Report 2011/2012, smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity and obesity, sun exposure, and exposure to pesticides account for the majority of deaths from cancer. You can protect yourself from these by taking the following simple steps in your daily life.

1. Quit smoking at all costs. Avoid hanging around others when they're smoking. Tobacco use accounts for 30% of deaths from cancer in the U.S. This makes this step absolutely important for your self-protection.

2. Develop healthy eating habits and maintain an exercise regimen. Poor diet, physical inactivity and obesity account for between 25% and 30% of deaths from cancer in the U.S.

3. Avoid exposure to the sun in the mid-morning to afternoon hours and wear powerful sunscreens at all times. This is essential to avoiding the many forms of cancer that develop as a result of sun exposure.

4. Wash your fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking them. This removes the limited amounts of pesticides that are usually on them. If you must use pesticides, be sure to follow the instructions for application, including wearing protective covering such as gloves and masks.

It is not possible to ensure protection from all forms of cancer for the simple reason that not everything is known about all of them, including all causes and risk factors. However, screening, visiting the doctor for regular checkups, reporting symptoms and effecting important lifestyle changes should go a long way to protecting yourself from many widespread forms of cancer.