53. Cancer: Look for Clues That Can Save Your Life

What do cancer and lightning have in common? The answer: Most people think they come out of the blue—either they strike you down, or (if you’re lucky) they don’t. But that’s where the similarity ends. Far less people get hit by lightning than die from cancer—it’s the second leading cause of death in the United States (heart disease is first). The most common forms are cancer of the skin, prostate, breast,  lungs, colon and rectum, urinary tract, and uterus.

Of course, that means most of us won’t get cancer. Luck is only part of the explanation. Cancer-free people may be doing something right—like not smoking, eating the right foods, drinking little or no alcohol, or protecting themselves from workplace chemicals. Cigarette smoking is estimated to be responsible for more than 85 percent of all lung cancer deaths. Poor diet, physical inactivity, and excess weight are thought to be a factor in about one-third of all cancers. And other lifestyle factors that increase the risk of cancer include alcohol use, work-related exposure to dangerous chemicals, and exposure to radiation. But whether or not you practice preventive measures against cancer, it’s a good idea to be alert to early possible signs of the disease. If you can detect cancer early and get proper treatment, your chances for survival are greatly increased.

Check with your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms.

  1. Any change in bladder or bowel habits.

  2. A lump or thickening in the breast, testicles, or anywhere else.

  3. Unusual vaginal bleeding or rectal discharge or unusual bleeding from any part of the body.

  4. Persistent hoarseness or nagging cough.

  5. A sore that doesn’t heal.

  6. Noticeable change in a wart or mole.

  7. Indigestion or difficulty swallowing.

Chapter 2
  1. Major Medical Conditions:

  2. Prevention, Detection, and Treatment