Updated: Oct 17, 2018
They were all told to look out for ‘signs’ and ‘symptoms’ of cancer, to self-examine, in the hope of catching it early.
They got very confused at this point: “what signs?” “what symptoms?” “how will we identify them?”
The answer was amazing: “check yourself out”; “how are you feeling in yourself?”
I couldn’t help smiling to myself as I watched the concerned faces around the room.
That didn’t really make it any clearer.
When Sister left the room I said to the group: “Signs and Symptoms are indicators to look for, or feel, telling you what is going on”.
“A SIGN is an external indicator that can be seen by others – family, friend, doctor, nurse; e.g. fever, fast breathing, possibly abnormal lung sounds, extreme tiredness (fatigue), or weight loss.
“A SYMPTOM is an internal signal that’s felt or noticed by the person who has it, but may not be easily seen by anyone else. For example, weakness, aching, and feeling short of breath (may be symptoms of pneumonia). This signal can also be picked up by a pet, as I had with my dog. Because of his overly attentive behaviour, along with my symptoms, mostly emotional, I knew I had cancer about 5 weeks before tests were carried out.”
The signs and symptoms will depend on where the cancer is, how big it is, and how much it affects the organs or tissues.
But sometimes cancer starts in places where it won’t cause any signs or symptoms until it has grown. Cancers of the pancreas, for example, usually don’t cause symptoms until they are large enough to press on nearby nerves or organs (this can cause back or belly pain).
Treatment works best when cancer is found early – while it’s still small and is less likely to have spread to other parts of the body. This often means a better chance for a cure, especially if the cancer can be removed with surgery.