Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019 | Last Update : 11:29 AM IST

Nip cancer in the bud!

THE ASIAN AGE. | KANIZA GARARI
Published : Sep 2, 2019, 12:17 am IST
Updated : Sep 2, 2019, 12:17 am IST

To avoid misdiagnosis in detecting cancer symptoms, it is very important to have a battery of tests.

Dr Sudha Sinha, American Oncology Institute
 Dr Sudha Sinha, American Oncology Institute

Unexplained weight loss, recurrent fevers and night sweats are common symptoms for infections and tuberculosis but if they have not been confirmed, it requires further testing and diagnosis for cancers. While recurrent fevers may subside with self-medication or by consulting different doctors, in the long run, it only allows time for the cancer to spread, explains medical oncologist Dr Sudha Sinha of the American Oncology Institute.

Warning signs

  • Recurring fevers, weight loss and night sweats have been found to be common in cancers of lymphomas, blood cancer, solid pancreatic tumours and other advanced cancers.
  • These symptoms have also been noted in men who have head and neck, lung, esophageal and gastric cancers, and in women with breast, lung, head and neck, and gastric cancers.
  • Other symptoms to watch out for include a lump in the breast, lumps in other parts of the body which are persistent in nature, cough, breathlessness, hoarseness of voice, difficulty swallowing, abdominal distension or fullness all the time, blood in the urine and stools.   

While the symptoms are not the same for all, these are some of the most common ones and most easily skipped, especially as the same symptoms can be present in the case of severe infectious diseases and tuberculosis. To avoid misdiagnosis therefore, it becomes very important to have a battery of tests although some people do not have the patience for a detailed testing which can also be expensive.

Dr Sudha Sinha explains, “At the clinical level, we find that most of these patients come at stage 2 or stage 3 as these symptoms are not known to them. Often the medical fraternity on the periphery and even in the cities is found to skip tests and that leads to a cycle of neglect whereby the cancers spread. However, these are symptoms that can be easily picked up and treated. Unexplained weight loss, for instance, is often related to throat, intestine or stomach cancers.”

Meanwhile, iron deficiency and anemia are believed to be some of the reasons for intestinal cancers in post-menopausal women, who must opt for a detailed evaluation after their menopause is complete.

Tips to remember:

  • Any persistent or recurrent symptoms need to be evaluated by a physician.
  • It is common to see patients take symptomatic treatment and not return for follow up evaluation.
  • Some patients also prefer to take non-allopathic treatments for their symptoms.
  • If other types of treatment are taken without a proper diagnosis, there may be a delayed recognition of cancer and loss of a chance at cure.

Thankfully, with treatment patterns changing due to the advent of new drugs, the quality of life of patients after treatment is being given more importance, with immunotherapy, precision medicine and other targeted therapies being the most sought after.

Treatment changes which help people cope better with the disease are:

  • Development of powerful medications to combat nausea and vomiting.
  • Medication to prevent drop in blood counts.
  • Pain medications.
  • Safer blood products.

All these advances make cancer treatment safe and manageable, with most patients reporting a good quality of life while on treatment. Many of them even go to work in between their treatment cycles. Patients are encouraged to lead an active lifestyle and try and stick to their normal routine while on treatment to help them cope better with the side effects. A proper diet regime is also required along with the treatment and often, small but frequent meals are recommended. A high protein diet to improve healing is beneficial while fatty foods, spicy foods, outside food and non-filtered water should be avoided at all costs.

Tags: cancer, blood cancer