Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for
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Cancer can manifest in a plethora of ways, but some signs are reported in almost all cases. The majority of patients can expect some degree of weight loss, pain and fatigue. The issue with these signs, however, is that they are non-specific, meaning they easily be confused for other ailments. In order to help recognise them, health bodies have broken down several characteristics that set cancer-related fatigue apart from everyday tiredness.
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer-related fatigue is an extremely common side effect of the disease.
“Between 80 percent and 100 percent of people with cancer report having fatigue,” says the health body.
The fatigue described by these patients is said to be very different from the tiredness they experienced prior to their cancer diagnosis.
Patients often describe feeling “washed out” or feeling so weak that they struggle to use the bathroom or TV remote.
For many, fatigue is the most “distressing” symptom of the disease, as it can be more debilitating than pain, nausea, vomiting or depression.
The term fatigue is used interchangeably with tiredness, but there are important differences that set them apart.
The Cleveland Clinic states: “Cancer-related fatigue (CRF, sometimes simply called ‘cancer fatigue’) is one of the most common side effects of cancer and its treatments.
“Many people who are chronically ill feel tired. But cancer-related fatigue goes beyond the usual tiredness.
“People who experience cancer fatigue often describe it as ‘paralysing’.”
The health body stresses how important it is to “be alert to the signs of impending cancer fatigue,” which include:
- Tired eyes
- Stiff shoulders
- Inability to concentrate
- Boredom or lack of motivation
- Increased irritability
- Nervousness, anxiety or impatience.
It also advises anyone with unusual fatigue to keep a record of their energy levels throughout the day.
This can help you discern what the contributing factors are, and highlight the time of the day you are most fatigued or have the most energy.
Cancer-related fatigue is primarily a side effect of the body working hard to deal with damage to healthy cells.
The exact causes of the disease remain unknown, but it is widely understood that cancer is triggered by the unruly proliferation of cells.
This leads to the formation of tumours, which continue to grow and advance, invading the tissue of neighbouring organs.
In order to advance, cancer uses the body’s nutrients, which the body can no longer rely on to replenish its cells.
It should be noted that it is highly unlikely that cancer causes fatigue alone.
“A more concerning scenario develops when patients experience both fatigue and pain in one area that’s getting progressively worse […],” explains the Cancer Center.
Another important red flag is worsening fatigue along with unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite, says the health body.
If you have not been diagnosed with cancer but are experiencing unexplained and chronic lack of energy, it is recommended that you see a doctor.
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