None of us like hearing, or even want to talk about, the dreaded c-word. Cancer takes many forms, some with symptoms that are far more recognizable than others. Most forms of cancer are much easier to treat if they’re detected earlier rather than later, but that’s only possible if we’re paying attention to our bodies and questioning our symptoms in the first place.
While unusual bleeding or a change in bathroom habits may be associated with other health conditions, they can in many cases also be linked to cancer. Persistent coughing, lumps, skin changes, and upper GI problems are also cause for pause. Keep reading to learn more about what you should discuss with your doctor.
Listen to Your Body — Don’t Ignore These Potentially Serious Symptoms.
While some of these symptoms may indicate another health disorder, none of them should be ignored. Even a change in what is “normal” for you may be a sign that something else is happening in your body. Pay particular attention to these seven symptoms:
- Unusual Bleeding: Any kind of unusual bleeding should be cause for concern. Lung cancer, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer, and cancers of the bladder and kidney can all cause unusual bleeding or bloody discharge. Call your doctor if you cough up blood, have bloody nipple discharge or find signs of blood in your urine or feces.
- Change in Bathroom Habits: Chronic constipation or diarrhea can occur as the result of colon cancer, which can also cause notable differences in bowel movement frequency. Changes in the amount of urine you pass may also be a sign of bladder or prostate cancer, especially if there’s pain or bleeding involved.
- Hoarseness or Persistent Cough: A persistent cough can indicate a number of lung issues, especially if you’re a smoker. If your cough gets bad and doesn’t improve, it could be a sign of lung cancer. Cancers of the throat and thyroid can also lead to hoarseness and cough.
- Unusual Lumps: Some tumors, such as breast cancer, testicular cancer, and enlarged lymph nodes, can cause lumps you can feel through the skin. Never ignore a new lump, or one that’s noticeably growing. Some types of breast cancer can cause discoloration or thickening of the skin, so watch for those issues when you perform your monthly breast exams.
- Persistent Sores: Tobacco, both smoked and chewed, can cause irritated white patches in the mouth called leukoplakia. Untreated, leukoplakia can lead to oral cancer, which may initially look like a canker sore. Unlike a cancer sore, oral cancer will recur and spread instead of healing. Similarly, certain types of skin cancers can appear as sores or scabs that fail to heal over time.
- Skin Changes: Other skin changes, most notably moles or warts that have grown or changed in shape or color, may indicate melanoma. Always have a dermatologist look at any suspicious changes to your skin. Early melanoma detection is essential to successful treatment.
- Upper GI Problems: Persistent heartburn or difficulty swallowing could indicate cancer somewhere along the upper gastrointestinal tract. These symptoms can also occur with other issues such as GERD, so you’ll need to see a doctor to determine the cause. Left untreated, GERD can lead to esophageal cancer.
Again, it’s important to remember that while many of these symptoms can be signs of cancer, most are symptoms of other health disorders as well. It’s important to stay calm and address your medical concerns with your doctor. Remember, early detection could save your life.
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