“Do I have cancer?” is a complex question because cancer is a complex disease. In fact, cancer is not really a single disease – we use cancer to describe a disease that exists in more than 100 different variations.
At a cellular and molecular level, cancer is a dysregulation of cell proliferation.
Normally, cells have a life cycle that is rigorously regulated. Cells can proliferate or differentiate in specific types of cells, such as hepatocytes for the liver, when needed.
Sometimes, abnormal mutations of the DNA in the cells get stuck in the proliferation phase of the cycle. The cells then replicate indefinitely and form a growing tumor.
Several factors could cause abnormal DNA mutations, including:
Tumors are generally harmful, as they grow and disturb the body’s normal functions. The organs near the tumor are physically pushed; blood vessels and nerves could be pinched; this generally results in pain.
The more the tumor grows, the more aggressive the cancer becomes, and the higher its risk of spreading to other parts of the body is.
Metastasis, i.e. single cancerous cells making it into the blood flow, will attach to tissue in distant organs and start forming tumors. Metastatic cancer has less than 20% survival rate over five years.
When you ask yourself, “Do I have cancer?” the answer is we all may have had mutated cells that could have become cancer at some point in our life.
But our immune system generally does a good job fighting them. Our immune system takes care of cancerous cells in the background of our daily lives.
Unfortunately, we are not all equal when it comes to our risk of developing cancer. Some of us inherit genes, like BRCA mutations in breast or ovarian cancer, that increase the risk of cancer.
However, we can all reduce our risk for cancer by being proactive. And by far, the most important measure to protect against cancer is early screening and detection.
As a matter of fact, cancer screening could save more than 100,000 American lives every year, according to the CDC. This only takes into consideration lung, breast, rectal, and colon cancer.
One could imagine the number of lives spared if we rigorously screened for all types of cancer.
There are several ways to prevent cancer.
To start, get physical exercise, eat a balanced diet, and, most importantly, quit smoking. Second, be proactive and screen for potential cancer on a regular basis and discuss the results with your doctor.
It is important to recognize early signs of cancer, such as difficulty breathing, abnormal pain that’s not going away, or a persistent swelling. But you don’t need to wait for signs or symptoms of cancer to get a screening.
At ezra, we provide different imaging tools to detect potential abnormalities in your body. For instance, we offer a full-body MRI. Our service will screen 13 organs for cancer in about an hour.
Multiple signs could raise suspicions that you might have cancer. If you notice anything unusual, we recommend you speak to your doctor immediately. It is important to differentiate symptoms from signs of cancer.
Cancer is a complex disease that can affect multiple organs. The signs and symptoms of cancer will depend on the locations and how their growth affects the surrounding tissues.
Signs and symptoms of cancer can be caused by the growing tumor’s physical pressure on the organs, an unusual release of the cancer cells’ molecules, and metastasis, i.e., when aggressive cancer cells disseminate from the primary tumor to distant organs.
Signs of cancer depend on the affected organ. Signs and symptoms can also be similar for different types of cancers. Keep in mind that one sign or one symptom alone does not mean cancer.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of signs and symptoms:
As you may have noticed, the symptoms and signs of cancer listed above are quite general and could also be attributed to other pathologies. This makes the diagnosis of cancer a complex task for health care professionals.
Cancer treatments are getting more efficient thanks to the tremendous work in cancer research. That said, despite the progress, late-stage cancer treatment such as chemotherapy is still unbearable for many patients, so early detection is important.
We should all make an effort to learn about our risk of developing cancer. Health agencies like the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute are making cancer awareness a priority by connecting with patients and doctors, and at ezra, we have developed a Cancer Risk Assessment to help you understand your risk for cancer.
If you are curious about your risk of developing cancer, take our know-your-risk questionnaire. In five minutes, you will have a better idea of whether you may encounter cancer in your life.
Even though your cancer risk is low, any health care professionals will tell you that prevention is better than treatment. Regular checkups and cancer screenings are a proven way to prevent cancer.
By choosing ezra, you are prioritizing your health. You are putting all the chances on your side to stay healthy. Your future self will thank you.
For instance, we offer a full-body MRI exam. With this service, 13 different organs are screened for cancer in less than an hour.
It is crucial to ask yourself, “Do I have cancer?” and get screened for cancer on a regular basis. Book your cancer screening appointment now.