In this podcast, we talk about what can go wrong when health care professionals fail to recognize a patient’s symptoms and perform the appropriate tests. In the case discussed, a woman complains that her urine is the color of rust, but after taking medication for a urinary tract infection, the problem persists. Her physician continues to misdiagnose her, and it isn’t until 2 years later that she finally sees a urologist who determines she has cancer of the kidney. Unfortunately, by then it is too late. Click here to get the details of this case of cancer misdiagnosis.
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Cancer can affect nearly every part of the human body. Symptoms for each particular form of cancer vary, though there are critical signs that the American Cancer Society has identified as general symptoms that can sometimes be linked to cancer. They are:
- Breast Mass. A new or enlarging mass in the breast or armpit may be a sign of cancer.
- Changes in bowel and/or bladder function. Altered bowel function, including blood in the stool, or blood in the urine can be a sign of bowel cancer or kidney/bladder cancer.
- Unexplained weight loss. Drastic weight loss of over 10 pounds which occur without reason may be a symptom of cancer.
- Fever. Fevers occur at some point with most cancer patients, though it is typically associated with later stages of cancer that has spread from it’s starting point.
- Fatigue. Whether through blood loss in cancers such as leukemia or through general exhaustion, fatigue is often attributed to many stages of cancer growth.
- Pain. Pain is common in later stages of many cancers, including brain, colon, rectum and ovary.
- Skin changes. Skin changes don’t just occur in skin cancer. Symptoms include enlarging moles on the skin, darker-looking skin, yellowed or reddened skin, irritation and excessive hair growth.
It is critically important to go to your doctor if you notice any abnormalities, lumps or spots that have recently appeared or changed for unknown reasons. Your physician should be well-versed in the symptoms and causes of cancer, and be able to correctly diagnose any possible health complications.
Although cancer can take shape in many areas of the body, there are a few forms of cancer that are misdiagnosed more than others. These include breast, lung and colorectal cancer. This is due to both their high prevalence, as well their similarities to other, less life-threatening diseases. (For example, colorectal cancer may be mistaken for diverticulitis.) Paying particular attention to signs or symptoms that affect these areas of the body can help protect you from a misdiagnosis.
Patients who are diagnosed with cancer are often met with treatment options based on the specific type, stage and location of their cancer. These can include:
- Laser therapy
- Heat therapy
- Gene therapy
- Biological therapy
- Drugs, often called targeted cancer therapy