Dr. Kwan Keat Leong Consultant General and Gastrointestinal Surgeon
BMedSc (UKM), MD (UKM), MS (UKM), FRCS (Ire), Dip Lap Surg (Strasbourg), Fellowship in Oesophageal & Upper Gastrointestinal Surgery (HK), Fellowship in D2 Gastrectomy (Japan)
In today’s world, everyone will be “touched” by cancer – as a person living with cancer, a family member or a friend. According to the World Cancer Report, cancer rates could increase by 50% (from 10 million new cases globally in 2000) to 15 million new cases in the year 2020. The predicted increase will mainly be due to steadily ageing populations in both developed and developing nations, and also to current trends in smoking prevalence and the growing adoption of unhealthy lifestyles.
Cancer is a large group of diseases in which cells grow out of control and can spread to other parts of the body. It involves a series of mutations in the genetic make-up of a cell, causing the cell to look and function differently from normal cells. Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, followed by cancer of the breast, colon and rectum, stomach, liver, cervix, oesophagus, head and neck, bladder, lymphomas and leukaemia.
Almost 1/3 of all cancers are preventable and another 1/3 are treatable with early detection and proper resources. The National Cancer Society of Malaysia has identified 10 signs and symptoms which could be EARLY warning of cancer.
1.CHANGE IN BOWEL OR BLADDER HABITS
Persistent diarrhoea and/or constipation, or changes in the colour, consistency or size of the stool may be symptom of colon or rectal cancer. Blood in the urine, a need to urinate frequently, painful or burning urination could be related to bladder or prostate cancer.
2.A LUMP THAT DOES NOT GO AWAY OR HAS ENLARGED
Many cancers can be felt through the skin. These cancers occur mostly in the breast, testicle, lymph glands and soft tissues of the body. A lump may be a sign of cancer especially when it has grown in size.
3.INDIGESTION OR DIFFICULTY IN SWALLOWING
Indigestion or swallowing problems may be symptoms of cancer of the stomach or oesophagus.
4.NAGGING COUGH OR HOARSENESS OF VOICE
A cough that does not go away after 2 weeks in nonsmoker or becomes intense in smokers may be a symptom of lung cancer. Hoarseness of voice can be a sign of cancer of the voice box (larynx), thyroid or oesophagus.
5.UNUSUAL BLEEDING OR DISCHARGE FROM ANY OPENING OF THE BODY
Unusual bleeding or discharge from the vagina can be a sign of cancer of the cervix or uterus. A bloody nipple discharge may be a sign of breast cancer. Colon or rectal cancer can cause blood in the stool or bleeding from the bottom. Blood in the sputum could be a sign of lung cancer.
6.A SORE THAT DOES NOT HEAL
A skin sore that does not heal may be a sign of skin cancer, especially when it bleeds, ulcerates or changes colour. A persistent sore in the mouth could be an oral cancer. Genital cancer may present as a sore on the penis or vagina.
7.CHANGE IN A MOLE OR WART
Any mole or wart that changes colour, size or appearance should not be ignored and could be sign of melanoma.
8.PERSISTENT PAIN OR DISCOMFORT IN THE ABDOMEN
Cancer of the stomach, liver or pancreas can present as pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen (above the navel) while cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary and uterus may cause pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen.
9.UNUSUAL BLEEDING FROM THE NOSE OR RINGING SOUND IN THE EAR (TINNITUS)
Unusual nosebleeds or tinnitus could be a symptom of nasopharygeal cancer or cancer in the ear, nose and throat region.
10.UNEXPLAINED WEIGHT LOSS
An unexplained weight loss of 10% or more may be the first symptom of some cancers. Weight loss is the result of loss of appetite, inability to maintain nutrition and part of the cancer cachexia syndrome.
If you experience any of the above signs or symptoms, you are advised to consult your doctor. This does not mean you have cancer, but it is something you should not ignore. Detecting cancer early is the key to a higher curative and survival rate. Many cancers can be cured if detected early and treated appropriately.
Source: The Expat April 2012 Issue
This article has been edited for ExpatGoMalaysia.com