What Happens When Cancer Goes Undetected

by Dr Amit Jotwani

When was the last time you were sick and practically tied to the bed? When was the last time you had a real challenge coming your way? Everyone has a preset defense mechanism to tackle known threats.

What Happens When Cancer Goes Undetected

We build our walls, draw up precautions, identify and stock up on supplies that we may need to face the battle – money, medicines, a set of empathetic ears or the phone number of a loved one on speed dial. Sadly, we lose sight of the little safeguards that could prevent us against the dark horse of all invisible enemies – Cancer.

You’re Living A Normal Life.

Things are great! You have been sticking to your gym schedule. Your diet is balanced to perfection. You have been outperforming yourself at work, and your business competitors look up to you for trends. You are a champion. Nothing can take that away from you.


Things start getting messy when you get out of bed and something you can’t see – an invisible force, if you may – punches and knocks you down. The catch? You get back up but you can’t see it. You don’t know if this thing is real, you don’t know if you imagined it, you don’t know if you should be paying any attention to it.(Don’t worry – this is not a horror story. Or maybe it is?)

So you do what you know best – you move on with your routine, begin your chores, brush your teeth, get dressed and get busy in the cacophony of lifestyle.

And then.

Fast forward to a few weeks later, and it happens again. Bam, like an uninvited guest who enters unannounced. Only this time, there is a little twitch in your elbow, or a recurring cough that won’t go away. Something fancier? How about a nudging pain near your leg, the one you ignored just blatantly because you thought it’s from all the walking around lately.

This goes on – for Days. Weeks. Months. And all this time, you are busy prepping yourself against the enemies you can see, the ones you can guard yourself against. Tha pain is still there, the cough is still there, but you keep telling yourself that you are above all that, that you can live with the little symptoms.

Because you can’t imagine the bigger picture, you don’t see the bigger threat.

And then..?

One day, there’s a hint of blood. Somewhere. Anywhere. In your urine, or your sputum, or when you vomit. A little more pain than usual, maybe. This is when things get tricky because at this point you’re scared, in denial, and still telling yourself that you are doing the right thing by not panicking. Because you are not a hypochondriac; You are not faint-hearted, you know what battles to choose. You are not that weak, are you?

And then..!

It happens. You fall down, flat on your face, or you faint in the middle of a crowded bus junction. Someone has to carry you to the hospital, a friend or a passerby talks to the doctor. These people running around in light coloured robes and scrubs, they inject a few needles here and there, your body slides through a giant imaging scanner. Everything lights up, everything becomes clear, the invisible enemy gets a face.

The Invisible Threat

The thing about cancer is, nobody is ever prepared for it.  It is not a usual topic of discussion at lunchtime, it was not something you grew up doodling about, or talking about with friends over coffee. Cancer is this menacing, out-of-the-world disease that you secretly pray you never get but are too scared to actually go out and get screened for.

I get it – I’m scared too. I’m perpetually scared, now that I know everything that can be cancer. A twitch in my neck? That persistent, lingering nausea? A little abdominal discomfort? It could all potentially be cancer.

I mean, take a look at this…this little hand-me-down memory trick list that the National Cancer Institute came up with. It enlists all the telltale symptoms of different types of cancer, and the guidelines are pretty straightforward about this – if these symptoms are confirmed and persistent, you need to go see a doctor ASAP.

Here is the list. They call it ‘CAUTION‘.

C – Change in bowel or bladder habits.
A -A sore that does not heal.
U -Unusual bleeding or discharge.
T -Thickening or lump in the breast, testicles, or elsewhere.
I -Indigestion or difficulty swallowing.
O -Obvious change in the size, colour, shape, or thickness of a wart, mole, or mouth sore.
N -Nagging cough or hoarseness.

The problem with the list? I don’t have to tell you. You know it – these are all very common symptoms, and yes – you can experience a change in bowel movement behavior if you are just constipated, and yes, you canbleed from an injury or a blood clot that you cannot see right now. You can experience difficulty in breathing just like a cancer patient with something as simple as a muscle tear (First hand experience).

So you might want to ask yourself – is it worth putting yourself through the trauma of getting screened, taking up the mental burden of imagining you have cancer, probably to find out that you don’t?

To that, I present to you three simple facts.

  1. Cancer isn’t generally considered ‘Curable’. It is conquerable, sure. Manageable? Yes. But only if it is detected earlyAlmost 90% of all cancers can be treated effectively, with generous survival rates and life expectancy if detected early.
  2. Most Patients Who Get Diagnosed At A Late Stage, Die. It’s a hard fact to face, but it’s true. The further cancer progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult for doctors to subdue a tumor or surgically remove it without risking complications. If cancer metastasizes, it’s a whole different story.
  3. And I think this is the most important point of all – The plus side of getting screened anyway, of fighting that initial ‘feel-good’ strength, is that if you don’t have cancer, you’ll find out that you don’t have cancer. It sounds a little cliched, but yeah, it gives you a new lease on life and strengthens you to stay resolved towards healthy lifestyle habits. A better way of living, if you will have it that way.

Above everything else, screening your symptoms to eliminate the impossible, prepares you against this invisible enemy that you may have to fight. Because the other thing true about cancer, is that it does not discriminate between the tough and the weak, between the rich and the poor, between those who have read this article and those who have not. (You get the hint, share this article to help others prepare too!)

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