You don’t need to panic, but you shouldn’t assume these signs are ‘nothing,’ either.
It’s very important to be aware of any changes, pain, aches and health problems that you are experiencing though it may seem minor. These common ailments or symptoms can actually be warning signs of cancer.
The best way to find some cancers early, when they’re small, have not spread, and are easier to treat, is through routine screenings – tests to check for cancer before there are any symptoms of the disease. With cervical and colon cancers, these tests can even prevent cancer from developing in the first place. But for cancer types that have no screenings, and for people who are too young to get routine screenings, symptoms are usually the first sign of cancer.
Knowing what symptoms to look for is complicated because cancer is not just one disease, but a group of diseases that can cause almost any sign or symptom. The signs and symptoms will depend on where the cancer is, how big it is, and how much it affects the organs or tissues. If a cancer has spread (metastasized), signs or symptoms may appear in different parts of the body.
A cancer may cause general symptoms like fever, extreme tiredness (fatigue), or weight loss. This may be because cancer cells use up much of the body’s energy supply, or they may release substances that change the way the body makes energy from food. Cancer can also cause the immune system to react in ways that produce these signs and symptoms. General symptoms can also have other causes, and are in fact more likely to be caused by something that isn’t cancer. But it’s important to have them checked out, just in case. If cancer is not the cause, a doctor can help figure out what the cause is and treat it, if needed.
Research has found that many people ignore symptoms or underestimate how serious they are. In a study conducted in London, researchers found that less than 60% of people who’d experienced symptoms that can be caused by cancer in the previous 3 months had gone to the doctor about them. And hardly any of them considered cancer as a possible cause. The symptoms included unexplained weight loss and change in the appearance of a mole, both of which should be checked out by a doctor right away.
The researchers say their study makes clear that opportunities for cancer to be diagnosed earlier are being missed. And while some symptoms, such as tiredness or coughing, are more likely caused by something other than cancer, no symptom should be ignored or overlooked, especially if it has lasted a long time or is getting worse.
Consulting your doctor may help prevent and detect cancer early on. Let’s find out some of these warning signs.
1. Cough and hoarseness
If you have a persistent cough for more than 3 weeks consult your doctor. Symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath may be a sign of a severe or acute condition like pneumonia.
2. Lump or bumps
If you notice a lump that’s growing in any part of your body, see your doctor right away. Your doctor will refer you to a specialist for any test if they think you may have cancer.
3. Change in skin moles
Check with your doctor if you notice any changes in your moles, warts or freckles’ appearance. This could indicate skin cancer which is treatable if detected early.
4. Unexplained pain
Pain is your body’s way of saying there is a problem. Persistent pain could be anything from ovarian, bone cancer or just nothing.
The American Cancer Society explained that pain from cancer means that is has spread in your body. This is a good time to consult with your doctor.
5. Change in bowel habits
If you experience any changes in your bowel movement such as the size, timing and amount, this just may be due to certain medications or foods you’re taking. However, if you notice it happens regularly over time, consult your doctor.
Consult your doctor as soon as possible if you have unexplained bleeding such as:
– blood when coughing
– blood in urine
– bleeding in between periods
– blood from your back passage
7. A long-lasting sore throat
If you have a persistent sore throat, that could mean something more severe like throat or laryngeal cancer.
8. Variation in bladder activity
If you notice any blood in your urine or feel pain when peeing you should consult your doctor. This is to rule out kidney, prostate or bladder cancer.
9. Unexplained weight loss
Weight loss without trying: Losing 10 pounds or more that isn’t on purpose may be a sign of cancer. This happens most often with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, oesophagus (tube connecting the mouth to the stomach), or lung.
10. Difficulty swallowing
Throat constriction could be an immune or nervous systems issue. This could also be a harbinger condition that includes cancer in the stomach, throat or oesophagus.
Sometimes cancer can affect the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infection that causes fever. It can also be an early sign of leukaemia or lymphoma.
Any wart, mole, or freckle that changes color, size, or shape, or that loses its sharp border should be checked for melanoma or other types of skin cancer. Other skin changes that can be symptoms of cancer include darker looking skin, yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice), reddened skin, itching, or excessive hair growth.
13.Change in bowel or bladder habits
Long-term constipation, diarrhea, or a change in size of the stool may be a sign of colon or rectal cancer. Pain when passing urine, blood in the urine, or a change such as needing to go more or less often than usual could be related to bladder or prostate cancer.
Sores that do not heal: Skin cancers may bleed and look like sores that don’t heal. A long-lasting sore in the mouth could be an oral cancer, especially in people who smoke, chew tobacco, or often drink alcohol. Sores on the genital area may either be signs of infection or an early cancer.
14.White spots in the mouth
White patches inside the mouth and white spots on the tongue may be leukoplakia. Leukoplakia is a pre-cancerous area that’s caused by frequent irritation. It’s often caused by smoking or other tobacco use and can become mouth cancer if not treated.
Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean you have cancer, or that you’re even likely to have cancer. But if you have one, or if you notice any other big changes in the way your body works or the way you feel, let a doctor know. This is especially true if a symptom lasts for a long time or gets worse. Even if it has nothing to do with cancer, the doctor can find out more about what’s going on and, if needed, treat it.
You may also call American Cancer Society any time, night or day, at 1-800-227-2345 with questions.