Carol Marquez, MD Oregon Health & Science University
Myths Around Breast Cancer
What is Cancer?
All types of cancer begin when cells in one part of the body go haywire. These abnormal cells make more cells, which form a tumor. As the tumor grows, it damages organs and tissue. Cells can spread to other parts of the body as well.
With age comes an increased risk of cancer, even without a family history of the disease. But there's good news: The chances of surviving cancer have never been better.
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Some Symptoms of Cancer
- Fatigue or weakness
- Slow-healing sores
- A new or changed mole
- Hoarseness or persistent coughing
- Abdominal pain after eating
- A thickening or lump in any part of the body
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unusual bleeding or discharge
- Unexplained weight changes
- Changes in bladder or bowel movements
- Erection problems
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
This list does not include every sign of cancer, nor does having any of these symptoms mean cancer is likely. But if your aging parent or loved one is experiencing any of these or other physical or cognitive changes, make a doctor's appointment as soon as possible. Early cancer detection saves lives.
The Four Stages of Cancer
Stage I - The cancer has not spread from the original site.
Stage II - The cancer has begun to spread, but only to the areas closest to the original site.
Stage III - The cancer has spread throughout the surrounding area of the original site.
Stage IV - The cancer has spread to other parts of the body besides the original site.
Each situation is different and patients respond differently to treatments. Talk to your loved one's doctor to get as much information as possible about the particular type of cancer and the types of appropriate treatment, which can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and biological therapy. Consider getting a second opinion.
Caring for Someone With Cancer
If your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you will probably need to call in the troops for help. Depending on the diagnosis and prognosis, you may need skilled nursing or hospital care. Try to enlist family members for extra assistance. Take good care of yourself, too, because you'll need to gather all your resources and strength to help your loved one during this extremely difficult time.
Prevention is Always the Best Medicine
Cancer can strike anyone at any time. While getting older increases everyone's risk, experts believe many cancers can be prevented. Here are some ways for both you and your loved ones to reduce your chances of getting cancer:
- Don't smoke or chew tobacco.
- Avoid sunburn.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Maintain an ideal weight.
- Don't drink more than one or two drinks a day.
- Avoid dangerous and toxic materials and chemicals.