When Your Body Talks... Be Sure to Listen

Doctor talking to woman about early detection.Being attuned to changes in your body can help in the early detection and treatment of cancer and other serious medical problems

Is your body trying to tell you something important? It can be an excellent communicator — if you pay careful attention to its symptoms.

There are numerous warning symptoms for cancer, many of which also can point to other serious medical conditions.

That’s why you should call your primary care physician (PCP) if you have any unusual or persistent symptoms lasting longer than two or three weeks, says Edward Chu, MD, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at UPMC and deputy director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

“The vast majority of patients will get a clean bill of health from their doctor,” says Dr. Chu. “But when it comes to cancer, time is often of the essence. Early detection can help keep cancer from spreading, allow for faster treatment, and improve your chances for recovery.”

Symptoms that Reveal

Most of us know to be on the lookout for such important cancer warning signs as a sore that does not heal; a thickening or lump in the breast, or other parts of the body; blood in the stool or urine; or changes in the size or color of a mole.

Dr. Chu says it’s also important to be aware of more generalized body changes (also known as constitutional symptoms) that can compromise your physical performance and overall well-being. By getting to know what’s typical for your own body, you’ll be better able to recognize unfamiliar changes when they occur. They can include:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Unexplained weight loss (typically 10 pounds or more)
    or loss of appetite
  • Changes in how food tastes
  • Fever and chills
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

“These symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have cancer,” he emphasizes. “But if they linger or worsen, it’s important for your doctor to rule out — or treat — possible problems.”

If you are interested in locating a PCP or specialist in your area, visit UPMC.com/FindADoctor or call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762).

Did You Know?

The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), based at the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside, is the only National Cancer Institute designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in western Pennsylvania.

Additional Cancer Information

Learn more about cancer detection, diagnosis and treamtment on the UPMC Cancer Centers website.

Visit the UPMC HealthTrak website to manage your health online.

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