Center for Asbestos Safety

How can signs and symptoms be useful?

Treatment is most effective when cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. When cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it generally implies that it is still relatively small and can be successfully treated while it has not spread to other areas or organs of the body. Often, this means that the patient has better chances of achieving a complete cure, especially in cases where it is possible to remove the cancer using surgery.

To understand the significance of detecting cancer in its early stages, we can consider melanoma skin cancer as an example. It is easier to remove skin cancer till the time it has not invaded (grow into) deep into the skin. The 5-year survival rate (percentage of patients who are still alive at least five years after their diagnosis), as relevant to this specific stage is almost 100%. In cases where melanoma has spread to other body parts, the 5-year survival rate comes down below the 20% mark.

Sometimes people tend to disregard symptoms. They may be unaware that symptoms can potentially indicate that something is wrong with the body. Or it may be that some individuals are afraid of what the symptoms may imply, or they simply may not want to seek medical help. It is more likely that specific symptoms, for instance tiredness, are caused by factors other than cancer. These symptoms can appear unimportant, especially when the problem lasts only for a short period or when there is an apparent reason for the same. Likewise, an individual may believe that a symptom such as a breast lump is possibly a cyst which will go away on its own. However, none of the symptoms should be overlooked or disregarded, especially when they have persisted for a long time or if they are getting worse.

In most cases, cancer may not be responsible for your symptoms, but it’s essential that you get them checked by your doctor, just to be sure. If the cause is not cancer, your doctor can help find out the real reasons for your symptoms and administer treatment, if required.

In some cases, it may be possible to detect cancer before you experience any symptoms. Heath groups such as the American Cancer Society have recommended specific tests and cancer-related check-ups for individuals even when there may not be any symptoms. These allow doctors to detect cancers early, even before symptoms appear. To know more about early detection tests, you can refer to the document – American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer. However, do remember that even when you may have taken these recommended tests, you still need to see your doctor in case you experience any symptoms.

More on signs and symptoms

Center for Asbestos
Safety in the Workplace