Diseases can leave their mark on the human body in unique ways at times, but they can also mimic other medical conditions making a differential diagnosis more difficult to obtain especially in the early stages. Cancer is one of these diseases. In nursing school, I was instructed on the “Seven Warning Signs of Cancer”.
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- A persistent cough or hoarseness
- A change in bowel or bladder habits
- Unusual bleeding or discharge
- Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere
- Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
- Changes in your skin such as an obvious change in a mole or wart
The warning signs were drilled into my fellow nursing students and me, and I hate to tell you that I’ve ignored a symptom or two in the past. This list is very basic and many times these changes can be attributed to another cause, but only your physician can tell you for sure if you have something to worry about or not.
October was the month for mammograms and dutiful nurse that I am, I posted on Facebook reminding my friends to get their mammograms while ignoring to schedule one of my own. I had good intentions but I let life’s everyday minutiae get in the way. In December, I received a Christmas card from an old friend. She wrote that a daughter had been diagnosed with breast cancer that year and two months later, my friend had the same diagnosis as her daughter. The news blew me away, and I said a prayer that their treatments would prove successful.
The next day I stepped out of the shower and although I don’t usually look at myself naked in a mirror (at 58 years of age it isn’t something I relish seeing), on this day I noted something that gave me pause.
Remember the list above is very general and doesn’t list all of the manifestations of these signals. Number five above doesn’t address one of the other changes that can occur in a breast — an inverted nipple. This is the first time I’d ever seen this happen to either of my breasts. I made a call to the hospital that same day and scheduled my overdue mammogram.
The day after Christmas, I had a mammogram. I’m thrilled to say it was normal. Thank goodness, because my story could have had a hugely different ending. Little things can signal the beginnings of diseases that can change your life and the lives of your family.
You know your own body better than anyone. If you notice something, even if it seems too small or insignificant to matter, ask your physician or speak to a nurse about it. Please do not panic if you do have one of the warning signs, only a physician and medical testing can give you a diagnosis. That being said, I will give you two examples that show the importance of seeking knowledgeable professionals about changes that concern you.
My husband’s family has a history of skin cancer. They spent a lot of time outside playing golf, camping, and swimming. Not too many people in the 1960’s-1970’s used sunscreen as frequently as they do today and my husband was one of the people who didn’t. I check him for any changes to moles on his body periodically and refer him to his doctor when I see something I’m concerned over. On one occasion, I noted white patches on his upper ears. They turned out to be pre-cancerous and were removed.
I have a college friend who had an irritated rash which would sometimes bleed in a very sensitive area of her body. I did not look at it, but asked her questions concerning it — when she noticed it, did it ever heal, had she brought it to her medical provider’s attention? She told me it was a constant irritation over several months. Because of its location, she asked someone that she felt comfortable with when she decided to speak about her concerns. Number one on the list is a sore that doesn’t heal. My friend took my advice and talked to her provider. She was treated for cancer to the area. I thank God every day she felt comfortable enough to speak out and that I was able to convince her to seek help.
The little things can make a difference between life and death.
OMP Admin Note: Kate McGinn is a writer and OMP Network member – one of a group of networkers who will be blogging on a regular basis on various causes and issues. Kate hopes to spread awareness of the issue of American Veterans returning home to less help than they deserve. EMMAUS is one of the two main charities we are supporting.
Kate McGinn’s fiction can be found on Amazon in the flash fiction series BITE SIZE STORIES (Volume Two) along with five other guest writers and in the One Million Project Fiction Anthology. Her Clare Thibodeaux Series, which include the suspense books — EXODUS, WINTER’S ICY CARESS, and NEVER SHOW YOUR HAND, is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.
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