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can you die of cancer without knowing you are sick?

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mopinko Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 02:36 PM
Original message
can you die of cancer without knowing you are sick?
DH's best friend died most unexpectedly last week. as far as anyone knew his only complaints were a little recent stomach 'trouble', but chalked it up to food poisoning. a week later, while visiting relatives, he started having serious trouble swallowing. they took him to the hospital, where he was admitted. 6 biopsies showed widespread cancer. he lapsed into a coma and died within days.
everyone has been left in shock. he was a curmudgeon of a guy, and might have just blown off symptoms, but mostly did not have a problem with doctors.

i guess i have heard a few stories of this sort, in particular fred rogers. but it just seems impossible to me that someone could be so sick and actually not know. any clues?
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no_hypocrisy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 02:38 PM
Response to Original message
1. Depending on the type of cancer and the location, the symptoms can be nuanced and mistaken
for minor conditions. My mother had lung cancer for years without realizing its existence.
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Orrex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 02:38 PM
Response to Original message
2. Absolutely
My friend's uncle died that way, and he wasn't old.

They had no idea that it was cancer until the post mortem.
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zipplewrath Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 02:39 PM
Response to Original message
3. Several cancers are asymptomatic
Well, at least until the tumors grow so large that they start interfering with basic bodily functions. A friend had ovarian and didn't find out until a pelvic exam found a 5 cm tumor. With Chemo and radiation she lasted 2 years. People used to have pretty advanced lung cancer and blamed it on "just a cough" for far too long. It can come on fast.
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JuniperLea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 02:44 PM
Response to Original message
4. Yes... many internal organs have no nerve endings...
You won't feel pain a lot of times.

My cousin was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas (or was it the spleen? I dunno... was 10 years ago), and the doctor was very, very surprised to know she felt any pain at all. Because of the pain, she was treated in time, which in itself was very, very rare.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 02:46 PM
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5. Some cancers produce symptoms only late in the disease
and some people are able to blow off even severe symptoms, especially if they don't have health insurance or they are too proud to mention them to a doctor for fear of being blown off, themselves.

I'm walking around with a c-spine fracture I blew off as a pulled tendon thanks to the former.

I knew a guy who had pancreatic cancer and treated it with Rolaids until four days before it killed him. I've known people with solid tumors and brain mets whose first obvious symptom was coma, although they'd been blowing off things like nausea, dizziness, and pain at the original tumor site for months or years. I know one patient who came in with dizziness and was dead in a week of an aggressive brain tumor.

It's unusual but it does happen.
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sinkingfeeling Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 02:51 PM
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6. Of course, you can. My cancer of the tonsils was discovered by accident. I had lost
about a pound a month, but thought it was due to increased physical activity. No other problems. It was Stage IV.
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ejpoeta Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 04:16 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. there was a guy on tv that had something on this tongue i think.
he kept asking his doctor who told him it was nothing. finally his dentist did a biopsy or someone other than the regular doctor and found out it was cancer. it took him 3 years to get anyone to listen to him.
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bpcmxr Donating Member (577 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 03:06 PM
Response to Original message
7. I recently lost my cousin Bill to esophageal cancer.
He was 39, didn't smoke or drink and hadn't a clue anything was wrong until he started experiencing severe pain in one of his legs. It wouldn't subside, and at the hospital they found numerous blood clots in his leg and elsewhere which they traced to a malignant tumor in his liver. They then discovered that the liver cancer had metastasized from a tumor in and around his esophagus. He was Stage 3 upon diagnosis and died in less than 90 days. The doctors were of the opinion that the esophageal tumor was at least 10 years old, yet Bill looked, acted, and said he felt fine until the day his leg started hurting.

Carpe diem.

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ejpoeta Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 04:15 PM
Response to Original message
8. don't forget the misdiagnosed. my dad went into the hospital several times over a couple of years
and was told many things as the cause of his problems. while they insist his cancer was so fast moving that it went through all his vital organs so bad that they couldn't tell where it started in a matter of a few months. i call bs knowing full well that i guess it is possible. from the time we found out til he died was less than two weeks. he didn't even have a chance. he had insurance. though they were pretty slick sending him a letter at home he HAD to fill out (which he couldn't). we were afraid the insurance company would try to get out of paying it if we didn't return it. luckily 2 of my sisters were health proxies. he wasn't even in a state to be able to sign a thing so people could pay his bills. but he had insurance. and he could go to the VA. how many out there ignore things because they can't afford the bill that would come. how many will be misdiagnosed or 'treated and streeted' and end up dying because they don't have insurance or have crappy insurance.
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SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-03-10 06:28 PM
Response to Original message
10. I have heard more than one
story of someone going along fine until one day just didn't feel all that good, did go to a doctor, and like that was diagnosed with cancer and died within a couple of weeks.

Some people have a remarkably high tolerance to pain. Some people, as you already mentioned, can just blow off symptoms. Other things, as someone else pointed out, just don't hurt.
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