March 1, 2018
Listening to what your body is telling you is a major factor in your health and wellbeing. If you’re feeling something that seems out of the ordinary, your body may be signaling a “sign” or “symptom”. There are key differences between these two signals, and it is important to understand what they mean when your body is trying to tell you something. According to the American Cancer Society, signs and symptoms are both signals of injury, illness or disease. The difference between the two lies in how they are perceived at first.
A sign is a signal that can be seen by someone else, whether it be a loved one, caregiver, doctor, or another medical professional. Examples of signs include fever, fast breathing and abnormal lung sounds heard through a stethoscope.
A symptom is a signal felt or noticed by the person who has it, but may not be easily seen by others. Examples of symptoms include weakness, aching and shortness of breath. Having one sign or symptom often isn’t enough to pinpoint a specific injury, illness or disease.
Paying attention to the signs and symptoms that your body is giving you can detect certain diseases early, especially cancer. General signs and symptoms of cancer include:
Keep in mind that a singular sign or symptom is not necessarily cause for alarm. In addition to these general signs of cancer, some cancers may present their own specific set of signs and symptoms. For example, changes in bowel functions or bladder habits may indicate colon, bladder or prostate cancer.1
No matter the sign or symptom, it is important to pay attention to what your body is indicating. It is especially important for cancer patients to be aware of returning symptoms following treatment. Previous cancer patients should keep track of any recurring cancer diagnosis.