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Cancers That Are Often Difficult to Detect

February 10, 2020

We all have our own unique health journeys, but despite even the best efforts, some of us end up having to fight cancer. And for reasons we don’t entirely know, the numbers tend to be rising across the globe.

Though not openly discussed, there has frequently been a stigma attached to people suffering from cancer. Some people believe that only those who don’t prioritize their health or are genetically unlucky get cancer — but this often not the case and this perception can be harmful to the victim’s emotional and physical health. The reality is that even the healthiest individuals can get that dreaded cancer diagnosis. However, the sooner a doctor can identify cancer, the better the patient’s chances of fighting and overcoming it. 

Identifying cancer early can save lives, but many early symptoms of particular cancers mimic more common ailments. Knowing what to look for can save time and possibly a life! We’ve investigated the top eight silent and fastest-growing cancers, their early signs, and what you can do to help support the involved organ systems.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect in its early stages. Symptoms to look for include urgent and frequent urination, bloating, abdominal and/or pelvic pain, and feeling full quickly and/or lack of appetite. Fatigue, constipation, pain during sex, and menstrual changes are a few other possible symptoms to look out for. According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, only about 15% of ovarian cancer cases are identified in the early stages.

Preventative Practices

  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day to keep yourself and your ovaries healthy! Gentle stretching can also help ease some abdominal discomfort if you’re fighting ovarian cancer. As always, work with what feels best for you and your body. Lie down on a yoga mat or towel and alternate between keeping your legs and arms flat on the ground (savasana) and curling into a ball with your arms wrapped around your shins. Experiment with what feels best — try gently rocking from side to side or moving into bridge pose to balance the stretch.
  • When thinking about preventing cancer, remember that anti-inflammatory support should be your top priority. Follow an anti-inflammatory diet and take other steps to reduce the inflammatory load on your body, while supporting the immune system.
  • It’s best to aim for a diet high in fiber from fruits and vegetables. Fresh, colorful salads and stir-fry meals are delicious and easy additions to a cancer-free lifestyle.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is another sneaky cancer that doesn’t give us many signs to look out for in its early stages, and has a bleak 5-year survival rate of 5%. Early signs to look for include sudden weight loss, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), dark urine, itchy skin, digestive distress, nausea, loss of appetite, diabetes, and blood clots. Extreme fatigue and abdominal or back pain are signs of late-stage pancreatic cancer. It’s best to be vigilant when you notice any of the earlier signs.

Preventative Practices

  • Some nutritionists are optimistic about the early studies being done with CBD oil with respect to cancers. A 2018 study published in the journal Nature showed promising research regarding CBD oil and pancreatic cancer. CBD helped inhibit tumor growth in mice, and with further research, perhaps we’ll be able to claim the same in humans. For now, there’s no harm in adding CBD oil to your routine for its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • As a preventative, don’t forget to nurture your pancreas daily with food. Adding dark leafy greens into the mix will help bring down inflammation in the body, and may help prevent certain types of chronic illness. Swiss chard, collard greens and spinach are great options!

Colon Cancer

Keep an eye on your stools — they can tell you a lot about your health. Early signs of colon cancer can be found in your bowel movements. It might be a tough subject for you to talk about, but don’t be afraid to mention any changes to your doctor. Look for frank blood or tarry black stools, blood from your rectum, or any gastrointestinal distress and talk to your doctor right away.

Preventative Practices

  • A diet high in fiber from fruits and vegetables, like apples and avocados, can help guard against colon cancer. Be sure to incorporate low-impact exercise when you can, too.
  • Fermented foods are also helpful in keeping your colon in good shape. Help your good gut flora by adding some sauerkraut to a fresh salad. Glutamine from the fermented cabbage is an effective fuel for the cells in your colon.

Bladder Cancer

Bloody urine, a burning sensation while peeing, frequent urination, and fatigue are all early signs of bladder cancer. These symptoms are often overlooked because they look just like a urinary tract infection. Once again, it’s important to be vigilant if your symptoms get worse or don’t go away completely in the expected timeframe for a common condition like a UTI.

Preventative Practices

  • We’ve all been told to pick up some cranberry juice when we have a urinary tract infection. Cranberries contain something called proanthocyanidins (PAC’s) that prevent harmful bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall. There’s exciting research being conducted on PAC’s and their ability to inhibit many different types of cancer. Be sure to watch the sugar content in cranberry products though, or get a good quality cranberry supplement.
  • It’s also very important to stay hydrated! Your bladder is under extra stress when you don’t hydrate well. Not only do your cells need hydration to operate efficiently, your bladder will experience less chronic inflammation and will flush itself out to stay healthy with proper hydration.
  • Eat parsley. Parsley helps boost immune function while helping the bladder flush toxins out. The vitamin C present in parsley is another anti-inflammatory ally in cancer prevention.

Esophageal Cancer

Difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, coughing, and weight-loss are all early signs of esophageal cancer. Once again, it’s easy to see these symptoms being mistaken for something benign, which is why this cancer isn’t always caught in its early stages.

Preventative Practices

  • The most important action you can take is to stop smoking or using tobacco products. If you have esophageal cancer, this action alone will increase your success with treatment and chance of survival. If you don’t, you’ll cut your chance of getting this aggressive cancer.
  • Frequent acid reflux is also a risk factor. Avoiding excessive animal fat can prevent acid reflux, so focus on eating lean meats like chicken breast, fish, and turkey breast.
  • A balanced, high-fiber diet of fruits and vegetables never goes out of style in the world of cancer prevention. Make sure to get plenty of foods like broccoli and artichokes.

Brain Cancer

This is another tough cancer to catch. It’s easy to overlook a headache or a little vertigo. Look out for balance issues, new headaches that are more severe than usual, confusion, behavioral and/or personality changes, hearing problems, and seizures. When things feel off, it’s a good idea to head to your doctor.

Preventative Practices

  • Brain health involves a multifaceted approach. One tip is to add a handful of blueberries and a cup of green tea in the morning to help nourish and protect your brain from oxidative stress that causes problems. These antioxidant-rich foods enrich the immune system and slow age-related changes in the brain.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your brain and increases oxidative stress. This increase in inflammatory processes doesn’t bode well for brain health. You also need sleep to restore and regenerate, which are essential processes in cancer prevention and healing.

Skin Cancer

Both dark and fair skinned people can get skin cancer, but take extra care if you’re fair skinned. Skin cancer starts out as strange new skin lesions. Checking yourself for changes in existing moles and new scaly, dark, or bleeding spots on your body is important to catching skin cancer in its early stages. Your scalp, palms, nails, and feet are easy places to miss. Skin cancer can be easily overlooked if you or your doctor are not checking your skin often.

Preventative Practices

  • Keep protecting yourself from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds. Applying a mineral sunscreen before any sun exposure is important for the prevention of any new lesions. Wearing clothes that offer protection from the sun is ideal.
  • As with all cancer, diet is important to pay attention to. Including powerful foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, cod, and shrimp helps fight inflammation. Add plenty of colorful vegetables and some wild rice and don’t forget to prioritize 30 minutes of daily exercise. Get protective clothing and sunblock and take a peaceful walk in nature.

Liver Cancer

Detecting early stages of liver cancer is problematic because the symptoms mimic other conditions.  As with any liver condition, keep an eye out for jaundice; yellowing of the skin and eyes. Unexplained weight loss, pain or fullness under your right rib, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting are all symptoms to look for as well.

Preventative Practices

  • Limiting or eliminating alcoholic beverages from your lifestyle is a great way to nurture your liver. This important organ needs to spend its time and energy filtering out other toxins from your body.
  • Don’t be shy with garlic — this herb will boost your immune system and help support your liver. Preserve the essential enzymes raw garlic contains, and try to eat it raw or try to not overcook it.
  • Find any excuse to use lemon, or any other citrus fruit, in your food or drinks. The vitamin C will help support a healthy liver and overall immune function.

Bottom Line

When it comes to cancers, being aware of the early symptoms is very important. Even the healthiest individuals can end up getting chronic and debilitating diseases. The better prepared you are, incorporating preventative practices and being body aware and mindful will better your chances to fight and overcome illness that comes your way. 

Remember: knowing what to look for can save time and lives. Understanding the early signs of these fast growing and silent diseases, and nipping them in the bud before they grow into something bigger and harder to manage, is the key!

NOTE: All of the above tips are recommended to support healthier organ systems. None are guaranteed to prevent cancer, nor are they recommended as a replacement to Cancer treatments prescribed by your physician.

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