According to a recent WHO report on cancer, there were 18.1 million new cases of cancer in 2018 and a record 9.6 million cancer deaths. This is according to data from the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) – a global body that collects information from cancer treatment centers in 185 countries.
Given cancer or malignancy has become a global epidemic; there is more emphasis on prevention than cure. The cost of treating malignancy is very high. Treatment also comes with significant health risks. Prevention is a better option; however, you must familiarize yourself with the signs of malignancy first to stop the disease on its path.
There may be over 200 types of cancers currently – which is obviously a conservative estimate since there must be 40,000+ cases for that cancer to be deemed common. However, malignancy exhibits some distinct signs regardless of the type.
Here are 14 signs of cancer you should never ignore regardless of your gender.
1. Unexplained weight loss
You shouldn’t be too happy about losing weight if you haven’t been exercising or making significant dietary changes. Many cancers are known to cause weight loss coupled with muscle wasting (Cachexia). The weight loss is linked mainly to cancer-related metabolism changes that demand a lot of energy from the body. As a result, the body turns to body fat and protein (muscle) as an energy source. Although weight loss is common with most cancers, it is often associated with cancers of the stomach and pancreas which are accompanied by symptoms like vomiting, mouth sores and difficulty in chewing and swallowing.
2. Constant fatigue
Feeling exhausted after a long day is normal. However, persistent fatigue even after having adequate rest/sleep is a source for concern. This sign is linked to a constant need for high amounts of energy to repair the body and cope with abnormal cell multiplication. Persistent exhaustion is more common in some cancers such as blood cancer as such cancers put unprecedented demand on the body’s energy resources.
3. Shortness of breath
4. Persistent coughing
You should also be worried about a cough that doesn’t go away after three weeks. This sign is common with throat and lung cancer. Leukemia also causes persistent coughing that resembles a bad chest cold or bronchitis. This sign is usually linked to infections in the respiratory tract.
5. Lethargy and weakness
Malignancy “robs” the body energy, so you are bound to experience some form of lethargy and weakness. This is linked to the body’s efforts to cope with high energy demands. Some cancers tend to be associated with this sign more than others. For instance, brain tumors and leukemia are notorious for causing prolonged weakness and lethargy. Brain tumor-related weakness is linked to disrupted nerve signals. Leukemia-related weakness is linked to anemia (red blood cells deficiency). Cancers that cause blood loss like stomach and colon cancers also cause lethargy.
6. Persistent or reoccurring fever
Fever is a common symptom associated with many diseases as the body fights invaders. It is usually a sign that the immune system is fighting intruders like bacteria, viruses or a tumor. Persistent or reoccurring fever should be evaluated. In most cases, it is an early malignancy symptom associated with cancers like lymphoma, leukemia and kidney cancer.
7. Consistent bloating
Bloating is also common with many health problems; however, this sign shouldn’t be ignored if it is consistent. Liver, colon, stomach, pancreatic, ovarian, breast and uterine cancers are all known to cause severe bloating.
8. Lingering mouth sores
Mouth sores are a common sign of occasional cold sores. However, if they take too long to heal, you have a problem. Lingering mouth sores are common signs of oral malignancy especially among individuals who drink, smoke or chew tobacco. You shouldn’t overlook unusual white sores on the tongue or inside the mouth as such sores (leukoplakia) are pre-cancerous lesions known to cause oral malignancy when left untreated.
9. Yellowing skin and eyes
Yellowing skin or jaundice is caused by bile build up which indicates that the body is unable to breakdown bile. Jaundice is among the clearest signs of pancreatic cancer. If your eyes and skin start to look yellow, search for cancer treatment centers in your area and go to the nearest one for screening. You could also be suffering from liver or gallbladder cancers among other serious ailments.
10. Dark urine
Normal urine has a yellow color. Darker urine can assume a deep yellow, brown or maroon color. One of the main reasons behind dark urine is bile buildup. The same problem that causes yellowing skin (jaundice) is responsible for the production of darker urine. This is usually a sign of liver, pancreas or kidney cancer.
11. Unusual lump/s on the neck
If you notice an unusual lump/s on your neck, you could be suffering from throat, lung, breast or thyroid cancer. You could also have Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia or skin cancer. Although such lumps may be non-cancerous, they are should never be ignored especially if you drink or smoke.
12. Strange bleeding
Some people nose bleed because of self-induced trauma like regular nose picking. Anything out of “normal bleeding” should be a cause of concern especially when it can’t be explained. For instance, coughing blood isn’t normal. In fact, it is a common sign of throat or lung cancer especially if you already have difficulty swallowing. Blood in your urine and stool is also abnormal and linked to prostate, colon and bladder cancers. Women who suffer from excessive spotting between menstrual cycles should also be concerned since this is a symptom of cervical cancer.
3. Persistent unexplained pain
Pain is part of everyday life. Lower back or neck pain is considered everyday pain which isn’t a cause for concern because it goes away. However, any ongoing pain should be checked regardless of where it is in the body. Consistent back pain is a common sign of prostate cancer. Pelvic pain is a common sign of ovarian cancer.  Persistent abdominal pain is also an early symptom of stomach cancer. Consistent and unexplained pain shouldn’t, therefore, be ignored.
14. Skin blemishes that don’t heal
Skin blemishes are common. They can appear anytime in life; however, if they don’t heal over time, you shouldn’t ignore them. Skin blemishes like moles which enlarge, get darker and assume an irregular outline or uneven pigmentation are common signs of malignant melanoma.
Malignancy can be easily mistaken especially in its early stages since it is associated with signs which are common with many diseases. To avoid ignoring dangerous signs, look out for severity of common symptoms like excess tiredness, bloating, pain among the other signs discussed above. If you exhibit any one or more of these signs, visit any one of the nearest cancer treatment centers for screening.