10 Cancer Symptoms You Likely Ignore – but Shouldn’t

More than a million people in the U.S. get cancer each year according to the American Cancer Society. The best way to combat cancer is to discover it early, but yet people ignore symptoms they’re not aware of. Here are 10 cancer symptoms you should take note of – and take warning – but don’t be too over-reactive. 

Persistent Fatigue
If you’ve been tired every day for a month or more; or have been recently experiencing unusual shortness of breath that you hadn’t noticed before — it could be a symptom of several cancer types. These could include colon cancer, leukemia, lymphoma or stomach cancer, says Dr. Richard Wender, Chief Cancer Control Officer for the American Cancer Society.

Cancer-related fatigue is very different from everyday fatigue, according to Dr. Wender. Cancer-related fatigue lasts longer and trying to sleep doesn’t make it any better. Many people describe it as overwhelming, and affecting all parts of their lives, and they say it’s the most distressing side effect of cancer as well as its treatment.

Unexplained Lump Or Thickness
Anytime you have a lump that you haven’t noticed before or a thickening under the skin that’s new or changing in size, you should have it checked out as soon as possible says Dr. Therese Bartholomew Bevers, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

While it’s possible and even likely that the problem could be a benign cyst, it could also be a cancer in the tissues underneath the skin. Of course, a lump in the breast is one of the most common symptoms of breast cancer, and should be examined immediately by your physician.

Weight Loss Without Trying
If you’ve lost 10 pounds or more and haven’t even tried, it may be a sign of cancer of the stomach, pancreas, esophagus or lungs. Usually, at some point in our lives as adults, we try to lose some weight, but if you’ve been losing weight and you haven’t made any effort to do it, it should be of concern.

According to Dr. Bevers, losing weight can be a sign of some serious medical problems, and one of those, she says, is that it could be a malignancy or tumor.

Constant Unexplained Pain
Constant headaches might not mean that you have brain cancer, but they still should be looked into. Pains in the chest might be a sign of lung cancer, and for women, pains in the abdomen might possibly be ovarian cancer. If you experience back pains, the cause could possibly be a symptom of cancer of the colon or ovaries, and if there’s occasional pain in the abdominal area, it might be an early sign of bone or testicular cancer.

In many cases, when you feel an unexplained pain, and it persists for an unusually long time, it’s a symptom of the advanced stages of a disease.

Frequent Fevers Or Infections
Often, cancer will affect our body’s immune system and make it harder for our body to fight infections that cause fever. If you’re normally healthy but have noticed that you’ve been getting sick or feverish more frequently, it could possibly be an early sign of leukemia or lymphoma.

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood, and it triggers the body into producing an abnormal number of white blood cells. Those cells can’t fight infection properly and eventually drive out most of the body’s red blood cells that supply us with the oxygen we need to stay healthy.

Lymphoma is a form of cancer that disrupts our body’s immune system by attacking specific white blood cells in our body called lymphocytes. Lymphoma is the most common cancer in young people and is often very treatable.

Skin Changes
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in America, and it’s difficult to recognize in the early stages, says Dr. Wender. Anytime you have a freckle, wart, or mole that changes color, size, or shape, or if it loses its sharp border, then you should have it checked out for melanoma or some of the other types of skin cancer. Other symptoms can include skin that turns yellow or darker looking, reddening, excessive itching or hair growth.

Skin cancers can bleed and appear like regular sores, except that they don’t heal. If you have a persistent sore in your mouth, it could be an oral cancer, particularly if you smoke, chew tobacco, or drink alcohol to excess. Sores in the genital area on the penis or vagina can also be signs of an infection or early cancer.

Change In Bowel Or Bladder Habits
Anytime you have diarrhea or constipation for an unusually long time, it could be a sign or rectal or colon cancer. Whenever your bowel movements take considerably longer than they used to or if there’s been a change in the size of your stool, this could also be a sign of colon cancer, says Dr. Bevers.

Pain when passing urine, signs of blood in the urine or needing to go more often than usual could be related to prostate, bladder or even kidney cancer. However, Dr Bevers says that more commonly this is a signal that you have a urinary tract infection.

Persistent Cough Or Hoarseness
A cough every once in a while isn’t usually anything to worry about — but if your cough seems different than the cough you regularly have experienced over the years, or if it’s accompanied by blood, there’s definitely cause for concern. Dr. Bevers explains that most coughs aren’t cancer, but a persistent cough should be evaluated by your doctor.

If you experience pains in the chest, shoulder, or back area, notice if they are confined to a specific area or does the pain occurs throughout your entire chest. When chest pain is caused by lung cancer, the discomfort can often result from enlarged lymph nodes, the lining around the lungs, metastasis to the chest wall, or from the ribs.

Unexpected Bleeding
In women, vaginal bleeding, when it occurs outside of your normal cycle, can be an early sign of cervical or endometrial cancer. Also, bleeding from the rectum can indicate the possibility of colon cancer, says Dr. Bevers.

It isn’t uncommon for women to see a little light spotting, even if it’s after menopause. However, if you suddenly start bleeding again, and it’s consistent, it possibly could be an early sign of uterine cancer, according to Dr. Maurie Markman, an oncologist at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Pains In The Mouth Or Throat
A cold sore around the mouth area that heals should probably be nothing to worry about, but if you notice sores that don’t heal, or have a pain in the mouth or throat area that doesn’t go away, red or white patches on the tongue or gums or tongue, or any swelling or numbness of the jaw — any of these might be a sign of a mouth cancer.

If you find it hard or painful to swallow because of a sore throat, and it persists for a few weeks and gets worse, it might be a common sign of throat or stomach cancer, or possibly an early sign of cancer of the lungs.

RELATED Reading: 10 Most Common But Deadliest Cancers

Written by Robert Clive for Vitality News ~ January 23, 2017.

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