It is crucial that you have the following symptoms in mind as those that require great attention since they are markers of malignancy and other serious conditions. They are:
- Anorexia (Apart from modifying metabolism, cancer causes changes in psychological and social patterns which reduce the patient’s appetite. Although not always present, it is a very common symptom and usually points at advanced disease).
- Weight loss (The cancer cells require energy and cause depletion of the body’s energy stores along with causing anorexia which both add up to produce weight loss. Like anorexia, weight loss is not always present but when there, it also signifies advanced malignancy).
- Dysphagia (Cancers of the esophagus and gastroesophageal junction cause this symptom. Always inquire about the LOCATION of the dysphagia asking the patient where exactly the food gets ‘stuck’ ).
- Protracted vomiting (This is vomiting continuously over a long period of time and is usually caused by serious conditions such as a mass in the posterior fossa of the brain, acute pancreatitis, etc – all of which require immediate medical management of the patient. Even if you cannot find the cause immediate, it is crucial to correct the patient’s electrolytes and water balance since imbalance in these can cause even further disturbing symptoms such as fits, etc).
- Haematemesis or Melena (Vomiting blood or passing it in the stools is a sign of malignancy, ruptured varices, worm infestation, etc. No matter what the cause, it is extremely critical to stop and cure the bleed since blood loss can be massive enough to prove fatal or cause severe anemia and weakness).