Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for
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Cancer survival is significantly more likely when a tumour is still localised and hasn’t yet spread to other body parts. This is why time is of the essence when diagnosing the disease. New survey data, however, suggest a staggering number of women are unaware of the signs of the “particularly aggressive and deadly” form of cancer known as inflammatory breast cancer.
The findings were presented by the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Centre to mark National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
According to the survey, 78 percent of women recognise a lump in the breast as a sign of breast cancer.
Only 44 percent, however, would suspect redness of the breast or thickening or pitting of the skin as a warning sign.
It also found that only 34 percent believed having one breast feel warmer or heavier than the other could be indicative of the disease.
Inflammatory breast cancer, which is highly aggressive, can occur in any part of the breast.
The disease is considered deadly because it grows quickly, meaning it is more likely to have spread by the time it’s been found.
What’s more, it often returns after treatment and has a poorer prognosis, compared to other forms of the disease.
Unfortunately, is often misdiagnosed because it mimics symptoms similar to a breast infection, like inflammation and swelling.
The swelling reflects the body’s reaction to the cancer cells in the lymph vessels, which may not produce a lump, unlike other cancers of the breast.
The five main warning signs are:
- An orange peel-like texture or dimpling of the skin
- Feeling of heaviness
- Tightening of the skin
- Engorgement of the breast
- Infection-like redness.
When these symptoms are caused by an infection of the breast (mastitis), patients may be prescribed a course of antibiotics.
According to Cancer Research UK, mastitis is uncommon in women who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding and it is particularly rare in women who have had menopause.
Doctor Ko Un Park, a surgical oncologist, explained: “Women should know that radical changes to the breast are not normal, and breast self-examen are still important.
“Some 50 percent of inflammatory breast cancers are diagnosed as stage four disease.
“It is important for women to recognise changes in both the appearance and feel of their breasts so that changes can be discussed quickly with a physician.”
Efforts to raise awareness of cancer symptoms have been ongoing in the UK, where people are encouraged to see their GP without delay.
The aim of several campaigns has been to encourage early detection of the disease so that timely treatment can follow.
Doctor Park noted: “Although inflammatory breast cancer only represents one to five percent of all breast cancers in the United States, it is a sneaky disease and challenging to diagnose.
“It is critical that clinicians have a high level of familiarity with its subtle signs and be prepared to take immediate action to avoid belated diagnosis.”
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