It is not uncommon for patients to tell me that they didn’t have any symptoms and so they didn’t show a doctor!
It has also unfortunately happened that many non-oncology doctors don’t know that cancer does not cause pain or any such symptoms till later in the course. I have seen doctors asking if there is pain and then dismissing it as noncancerous growth. By the time it causes major symptoms or pain it is too late. Cancer is a painless disease when it start.
Often I have wondered how we can do better! How do we make the patient realise that there is problem before it is late. The key to this is awareness of one’s own body.
Everyone of us should be aware of any new symptom that appears. Let it be growth or swelling or weakness. Any symptom that has not been there before and does not subside in 3 weeks should be seen with suspicion. Any such symptom should warrant an investigation. I have been patients with anemia being treated with iron tablets for months before investigations showing that it is colon or stomach cancer. I have seen lung cancers being treated as TB (tuberculosis) for months before it gets too advanced and then realise that it is cancer.
Most of the times it is difficult to diagnose cancers based on symptoms alone. Symptoms of cancer are similar to benign conditions of those organs. For example, stomach cancer feels like gastritis, rectal cancer gives the symptom of piles, etc. For this reason all the patients who have such symptoms need to be evaluated completely to avoid delayed diagnosis.
Age is a major reason for occurance of cancer. Often, any older patients, especially older than 45 who comes with new symptoms should be evaluated completely. Older we are more is the risk of cancer. The risk can be avaoided by exercise and healthy habits, but, can never be reduced to zero.
Your safety is in your own hands!