Woman diagnosed with cancer after doctors spot unusual hair growth

Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for

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Most women have faintly visible hair around the moustache and chin area, but for some, this hair grows in excess. This occurrence tends to reflect the deregulation of sex-specific hormones. Some cases, however, suggest specific patterns of hair growth could be symptomatic of cancer. Although the causes of these symptoms are often benign, a more life-threatening cause should not be missed.

In 2016, the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported on the case of a 62-year-old woman with “various cancers” who presented with “extremely dense hair growth in her face, arms and on her back”.

Her report states that the hair growth consisted of 2 cm long, white, thin, soft hair, prominently present on the face, arms and back, all symptoms consistent with lanugo hair growth.

Further examinations later revealed the patient had a metastasised tumour on her left ovary and colon.

A similar case report in BMJ describes the case of a 58-year-old who presented with a mild degree of hirsutism on the chin.

The patient had noticed mild hair loss 12 months prior, but her symptoms had rapidly advanced in the four months leading up to her clinical examination.

Hirsutism is a common condition caused mainly by excess androgen secretion either from the ovaries or adrenal glands.

Doctor Liakas, Medical Director At Vie Aesthetics. explained: “[A] form of hormone imbalance that can cause hirsutism is certain adrenal gland disorders. This may include adrenal cancer, adrenal tumours [and] Cushing disease.”

Adrenal tumours form when cancerous cells form in the adrenal cortex, a part of the body that controls male and female hormones.

“In simple terms, the adrenal glands are responsible for the production of your hormones,” added Doctor Liakas.

Another cancer-related cause of hirsutism is androgen-secreting tumours.

“There is also the possibility that an androgen-secreting tumour in the ovaries is the underlying cause of hirsutism in females, but this is also
rare,” explained Doctor Manish Mittal, surgical director of Mittal Hair Clinic.

When hirsutism is caused by adrenocortical carcinoma, patients may want to watch out for other symptoms, explained the expert.

He noted: “This type of cancer is usually more evident with pains and lumps in the abdomen, but it’s still worth mentioning to your GP if you do notice abnormal hair growth.”

Hirsutism is broadly defined as unwanted hair grown on the face, chest and back and diffuse hair growth.

The condition, which affects millions of women around the world, poses a significant psychological burden.

Doctor Liakas states that as many as five to 10 percent of women around the world are afflicted.

“The main difference between more typically hair on a woman’s body and face, which many of us refer to as peach fuzz and hirsutism is the texture,” he added.

“Women can develop excessive body or facial hair due to high levels of androgen hormones, such hormones include testosterone and androstenedione.”

The causes listed above are more likely to be the cause of hirsutism than cancer, but symptoms should still promptly be checked by a healthcare provider.

Because cancer signs are so scarce in the initial stages, doctors also encourage regular screenings.

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