Cancer is the second deadliest disease after heart disease, so it’s safe to say that everyone should be aware of its symptoms. The problem here is that cancer does not have specific and accurate symptoms that suggest you may have it. It seems that every sign that could be a result of cancer can be interpreted by a harmless condition as well. When in doubt, or when certain symptoms reoccur, make sure you notify your doctor. Here is a list of the most common symptoms of cancer to be wary of:
1-Nagging cough or blood-tinged saliva
These symptoms can be triggered by many other conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, acid reflux, or sinusitis. They could always be triggered by a tumor in the lung, head, and neck. If your cough doesn’t go away in more than a month or you cough up blood — especially if you are a smoker — see your doctor for tests.
Your diet and fluid intakes affect bowel habits, but what about the changes that are induced by something other than your diet? Symptoms that involve bowel changes can be caused by other conditions like infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease. However, pencil-thin stools, severe constipation, or continuous diarrhea can be a signs of colon cancer. Some people can also have an urge to have a bowel movement even though they just went. If any of these signs last a few days or become worse, you need to get yourself checked. Make sure you report any changes in bowel habits to your doctor.
3-Blood in the stool
If you see blood in your stool, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor. Bloody stool is likely the cause of swollen, inflamed veins called hemorrhoids, but there’s a chance it could be colon cancer. For many, a colonoscopy is a recommended procedure, while for others an X-ray may be enough to give way to a diagnosis. To get rid of doubt, when you notice blood in your stool, consult your doctor for the right treatment. We should also add that even with no abnormal symptoms, you should have a routine colonoscopy once you reach 50 years of age. In cases where the source of the bleeding is already figured out as in the case of recurrent ulcers for example, there’s no need for further examinations.
4-Unexplained anemia (low blood count)
Anemia is a symptom with many possible causes. It is a condition where the body does not make enough red blood cells. It can be a result of conditions that affect red blood cells directly, or may be caused by iron deficiency. In the absence of an obvious source of anemia, it needs to be explained. Several types of cancer can cause anemia, perhaps the most common is rectal or colon cancer which causes iron deficiency anemia. When consulting a doctor, it is probable he will include an endoscopy or X-ray studies of your upper and lower intestinal tracts in the evaluation process.
5-Lump in the breast or discharge
Even though most breast lumps are not cancer as in the case with fibro-adenomas or cysts; a lump or thickening may be an early or late sign of cancer and should be reported to a doctor, especially if you notice it has grown in size. Discharge from the breast is also a common thing among women. But, if the discharge becomes bloody or if it only occurs from one nipple then evaluation is recommended. Have your doctor check you when you notice any lumps, nipple changes or discharge, redness or thickening, or pain in your breasts. Therefore, he/she can determine the appropriate procedure and may suggest a mammogram, MRI, or maybe a biopsy (a small tissue sample). Additionally, we do advise all women to self-examine their breasts periodically.
6-Lumps in the testicles
Most often, the first symptom of testicular cancer is a lump on the testicle, or that it becomes swollen or larger. In fact, 90% of men with testicular cancer report a painless or uncomfortable lump on a testicle. However, not all lumps indicate the presence of this cancer. Most lumps are caused by benign, or noncancerous conditions such as infections and swollen veins. You should conduct a regular self-examination of your testicles and you should also notify your doctor for any lumps.
7-Change in urination
These symptoms involve slow urine flow, small amounts of urine, frequent urination, or changes in bladder functions. They can be the result of urinary infections for women, or an enlarged prostate gland for men. Many men as they grow older will suffer from these urinary symptoms because of prostate enlargement. Cancer of the bladder, prostate, and pelvic tumors can also cause irritation of the bladder and urinary frequency. The symptoms however could also mean they have prostate cancer. Both men and women experiencing these signs should consult a specialist, possibly involving a digital rectal exam and blood tests especially one under the name PSA test. The results and their interpretation should be discussed with your doctor. In case of doubt, a biopsy of the prostate may be needed for men.
More Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Hoarseness or a change in your voice can be caused by a simple allergy, a chest infection or over use of the voice, such as shouting or screaming. If you have a hoarseness that’s not caused by a respiratory infection or one that lasts for more than 3 weeks, it could be a sign of laryngeal cancer and you need to consult your health care provider.
-Swollen Lymph nodes:
You have these small, bean-shaped glands in your neck, armpits, and other parts of your body, they are a component of the body’s immune system. When they’re swollen, it often means you’re fighting an infection like a cold and they may take weeks to shrink again. Some cancers like lymphoma and leukemia can also cause this kind of swelling. Talk to your doctor if your glands remain swollen for three to four weeks to pinpoint the cause.
-Obvious change in a wart or a mole:
Most warts or moles are harmless, but in a few rare cases they can develop into an aggressive form of skin cancer. A multicolored mole that bleeds or one that changes size, shape, or color could be a sign of skin cancer. More attention needs to be given to larger moles, but if you have any of the previous symptoms, have your doctor check your skin. Getting rid of a mole is not a complicated matter, so you should have your doctor assess any suspicious mole for removal. He/she will remove a small piece of the mole (called a biopsy) to take a closer look at it under a microscope for cancer cells.
-Indigestion or difficulty swallowing:
Who doesn’t suffer from digestive problems from time to time? Like most symptoms on this list, they are most often caused by something other than cancer. However, Indigestion or swallowing problems that don’t go away may be signs of cancer of the esophagus (the swallowing tube that goes to the stomach), stomach, or pharynx (throat). If you change your eating habits and your indigestion doesn’t stop, or if your symptoms last even after using over-the-counter antacids; your doctor may want to do some tests to look for a cause. It could be a sign of stomach cancer.
Having difficulties while swallowing is a common problem, especially with the elderly. It has many causes, such as a common cold, taking certain medicine, or damage to esophageal tissues from stomach acid backing up into your esophagus. This can lead to spasm or scarring and narrowing of your lower esophagus (the tube connecting your throat with your stomach). You should however ask your doctor when you’re experiencing swallowing issues as they could be a sign of the cancer of the esophagus.
-Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge:
Bleeding that’s not part of your usual period can have many causes, like fibroids or even the use of some types of birth control, but symptoms that include bloody discharge or unusual vaginal bleeding can be an early sign of cervical cancer. If you suffer from abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause, consider seeing your doctor. You should also inform your doctor if your periods become heavier and last longer than usual. Vaginal discharge that does not stop, and may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody, or foul smelling requires medical attention as well. When evaluated, your doctor is more likely to perform an endometrial biopsy, where a small tissue sample from inside the uterus is put to the test. Cancer or not, a pap smear test should be part of every woman’s routine medical care.
-Unexplained weight loss or fever:
These nonspecific symptoms may be caused by several different conditions, tuberculosis for example. Slimming down can of course occur when changing your diet or your exercise plan, but it’s not normal to lose 10 pounds or more without trying. This is usually an important first sign of cancer to which you should pay attention (This often happens with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, or lung). A fever isn’t usually a dangerous thing, it could just be a sign of your body fighting an infection, or it can also be a side effect of a type of medicine. Almost all people with cancer report fever at some point, especially if the cancer or its treatment affects the immune system. Fever that won’t go away and doesn’t have an obvious cause could be a sign of blood cancer like leukemia or lymphoma.
Sores usually heal quickly, and some non-healing sores may be due to weak circulation as the case with diabetic people. If an area refuses to heal fast, you may have cancer and should see a doctor. A long-lasting sore in the mouth could be a sign of oral cancer, and sores on your skin that bleed and look like they don’t heal can be a sign of skin cancer; while sores on the sexual organs may be either signs of infection or a sign of cancer. Non-healing or persistent white or red patches on your gums, tongue, or tonsils should raise concerns and should be seen by a health professional.
Almost everyone gets a headache occasionally, and it could be caused by migraines or tension headaches. However, a headache that does not go away after a few days or that feels different from usual may be a symptom of a brain tumor. If your headache fails to disappear with the ordinary over-the-counter medications or painkillers, see a doctor right away.
-Back pain, pelvic pain, or bloating:
These symptoms are related to daily food intake and can be caused by strains, muscle spasm, changes in your diet, or even stress. If the pains do not get better or you also have fatigue or weight loss, have yourself checked out as they can also be symptoms of ovarian cancer. This cancer is usually difficult to treat, as it is generally diagnosed late in the course of the disease. The American Cancer Society and other organizations have thus been trying to draw attention to this disease and its diagnosis when the classic symptoms are presen