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Signs of Cancer Page #2 

Additional signs of cancer:

Weight loss: 

There is frequently some weight loss in the early stages of cancer, although severe weight loss (cachexia) usually does not occur until cancer has progressed. The body releases chemicals called cytokines (there are two types of cytokines: tumor necrosis factor and interleukin 6) in response to the cancer. It is believed, that the cytokines are responsible for the weight loss. Also, weight loss is frequently related to the side effects of cancer treatment, which results in nausea and vomiting for many people. Many people also experience difficulty eating or digesting food because of abnormalities that develop as a result of the cancer such as blockage of the throat, esophagus, or the intestine.  Weight loss may also result from an individual being depressed or experiencing intense fatigue. 


Nausea usually results from chemical changes in the blood which may be the result of increased levels of calcium, decreased levels of sodium, or high levels of urea in the bloodstream.  The spread of the cancer (metastasis) to the brain or liver may also result in nausea. Many people develop nausea as a result of chemotherapy treatment and some of the powerful medications used to treat the resultant pain such as the opiods (OxyContin etc.). 

Other symptoms:  

Cancers are usually found as a result of the primary tumor and the resulting symptoms.  Or, sometimes they are found because they spread to other parts of the body resulting in symptoms in those areas.  For example, bone pain may be caused by cancer that has spread to the bone in that specific area.  However, as most people know, much of the pain that older individuals experience are the result of multiple other conditions such as arthritis, and is not indicative of cancer. Altered sensation or weakness may be a sign that a cancer has spread to the brain.  But, similar symptoms may also be experienced by an individual who has had a stroke. 

Cancers frequently release chemicals into the bloodstream that act as hormones.  For example, some cancers release a substance in the blood that is very similar to the effects of parathyroid hormone.  This chemical may then cause the calcium level in the blood to rise resulting in such symptoms as abdominal pain, muscle weakness, mental confusion and diarrhea.  Another chemical released by the cancer may cause effects very similar to the stress hormone cortisol, resulting in a very full, chubby facial appearance and sometimes even stretch marks in the skin.

Some information from The Merck Manual of Health of Aging 

Additional information and web page by Paul Susic M.A. Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate (Health Psychology)


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