Cancer is a leading cause of worldwide illness and death. In 2012, about 14 million new cancer cases occurred, resulting in approximately 8.2 million fatalities. The most common type is lung cancer, which killed 1.59 million people in 2012. During the next two decades, new cancers are likely to increase by about 70 percent globally. Despite these alarming statistics, a new study found that the majority of people disregard cancer warning signs. Unfortunately, most attribute them to symptoms of less severe illnesses.
Disturbing Study Findings
A U.K. study observed 1,724 subjects age 50 and up who responded to an April 2012 health questionnaire. They noted if they currently or previously had any of the 17 listed symptoms. Participants were not aware that Cancer Research U.K. had defined 10 of those as cancer alert signs. The symptoms included unexpected lumps, persistent bowel changes, unaccountable bleeding, unexplainable coughing, mole appearance changes, unintended weight loss, and swallowing difficulties. Answers included what respondents thought were causes of their symptoms, if they deemed those signs as serious, and if they had visited their doctors because of them.
Dr. Katriina Whitaker, the lead author and a University College London senior research fellow, analyzed the data. Of the 53 percent of subjects who had experienced one or more warning signs during the previous three months, just two percent considered that cancer could have caused them. The most commonly reported cancer-warning symptoms included persistent cough and bowel routine changes. Unintentional weight loss and swallowing problems were the least noted symptoms.
The majority of subjects documenting what should be the most recognizable cancer signs like lumps and mole changes did not relate them to cancer. When people considered that their symptoms could be serious, they still did not consider that they might have cancer. Whitaker theorizes that fear could have made respondents reluctant to bring up cancer — even as a remote possibility. Maybe they did not think cancer would afflict them, or they believed or hoped that other reasons were more probable. On the plus side, respondents deemed cancer warnings as more serious than unrelated symptoms like shortness of breath, sore throat, and fatigue. Fortunately, 59 percent of people experiencing cancerous symptoms consulted their doctors.
But regrettably, the researchers report that the greatest percentage of subjects dismissed potential cancer warnings, which might have put their health and lives in danger. Whitaker noted that most people who had experienced possible warning signs did not even have cancer. Some had unrelated diseases that could have benefitted from prompt medical attention. Seeking speedy diagnoses and treatment should be priorities — especially if symptoms are ongoing. Unfortunately, too many people may put off seeing their doctors because they will not acknowledge that they might have cancer.
Most patients learn that they have cancer when they see their doctors for specific symptoms. Yet Sara Hiom, Cancer Research U.K.’s early diagnosis director, pointed out that this study shows numerous patients are missing key chances for early diagnoses. These results may help the medical community devise new ways to encourage people with troublesome symptoms to contemplate that cancer could be a potential cause so they will visit their doctors sooner.
Why Early Cancer Detection and Treatment Are Vital
The National Cancer Institute reports that 585,720 of the estimated 1,665,540 U.S. residents who receive cancer diagnoses in 2014 will die from those diseases. Timely screenings could have avoided up to 35 percent of those premature deaths, depending on various assumptions. Screenings are tests that can identify if you have a disease before symptoms occur. Examples include mammograms for breast cancer and colonoscopies for colon cancer. Such tests are especially important for cancers that affect the breast, cervix, colon, rectum, mouth, larynx, and skin.
According to the World Health Organization, when recognizing symptoms as possible cancer warning signs and seeing your doctor promptly lead to early detection and diagnosis, your chances of successful cancer treatment increase greatly. In addition to saving lives, screenings may help decrease cancer severity because early stages are easier to treat than more advanced forms. If one of these tests shows that you have breast, colon, or rectal cancer, your doctor may prescribeCapecitabine, generic Xeloda, a versatile oral chemotherapy medication that treats all three types.
Choose Foods that Lower Cancer Chances
Foods that have high amounts of refined sugar and flour and/or saturated fat can increase inflammation, which research shows contributes to cancer and other illnesses. Dr. Natasha Withers recommends these food choices that help suppress harmful inflammation to decrease cancer risks:
Colorful fresh produce: Focus on fruits and vegetables that contain compounds with both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Enjoy jewel-colored fruits like blueberries and cherries, vividly red tomatoes and peppers, bright orange produce including mangos and squash, and beautifully green broccoli and spinach.
Zesty spices: Garlic and ginger do more than enhance flavors. They also help prevent unwanted inflammation.
Filling fiber: Eat high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, beans, and vegetables for their anti-inflammatory effects.
Good fats: Salmon and other cold-water fish, walnuts, and flaxseed are good omega-3 fatty acid sources that provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
Other choices: Green tea and dark chocolate are great sources of health-enhancing antioxidants.