National Cancer Prevention Month (February)

February, generally a cold month filled with the warmth and love of Valentine's Day, has been designated: National Cancer Prevention Month. Since cancer will affect half of all men and one-third of all women in the United States during their lifetime, it is extremely important for everyone to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer so that they can seek medical help as needed.

Before learning various signs and symptoms of cancer however, it is important to know a little about what cancer is. Cancer is a general term used to describe over 100 different diseases. While there are many different types of cancer, all cancers develop from the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells. Unlike normal cells, which grow, divide, and die, abnormal cells grow, divide and continue to grow and divide uncontrollably. These cells continue to grow and divide, and could potentially enter the blood stream and spread to different parts of the body.

As the process of growth and division continues, there are a few common signs and symptoms that people should look out for (it is important to note that simply having these signs and symptoms does not mean that you have cancer. If you have any concerns, it is extremely important that you consult your personal physician):

  • Unexplained weight loss- weight loss that occurs when an individual is not actively trying to lose weight.
  • Fever- generally occurs after cancer has spread; normally this is not an early warning sign of cancer.
  • Fatigue- extreme tiredness that does not get better with rest
  • Pain- this can be an early warning sign of certain cancers or it may occur once cancer has spread.
  • Skin changes- (darker looking skin, yellowish skin and eyes, reddened skin, itching, excessive hair growth).

Information in this article was obtained from the American Cancer Society. For more information please visit: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/index

Information provided by Benjamin L. Gregory, student intern with Community Wellness at Augusta Health. Funding has been provided through the Augusta Health Foundation. To contact Dana Breeding, RN, relating to the information in this article, please call (540) 332-4988 or (540) 932-4988.