10 Cancer Symptoms You Should Never Ignore
Not all lumps, persistent headaches or back pains are cancer — but it pays to pay attention
No one wants to find out they have cancer — but then again, it’s better than not finding out until it’s too late for effective treatment. So instead of brushing off a symptom by telling yourself it’s nothing, let a doctor decide that.
It's not always possible to say exactly when a symptom merits a doctor visit, but If it seems abnormal and out of the ordinary for you, that's a good indication it's time to get checked out — now, not after the workload at the office slows down or the kids' homework issues abate.
Here are 10 symptoms that could indicate cancer.
1. Unexplained, effortless weight loss
Dropping pounds without trying may sound like a dream come true, but it's not. If you lose 10 pounds or more without trying, it's time to call the doctor. Among other medical problems (such as a parasite or an overactive thyroid), unexplained weight loss could signal cancer of the stomach, esophagus, pancreas or lung according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
2. Persistent fever
A fever can help you fight off infections. However, if it persists, it may point to a cancer such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. If your temperature is 103 degrees F. or higher and the fever last more than three days, check in with your doctor. Other symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma include unexplained weight loss, soaking night sweats, coughing, weakness and swollen lymph nodes according to the National Cancer Institute.
3. Trouble swallowing
(Photo: Poprotskiy Alexey/Shutterstock)
It can be tough to swallow if you have a terribly sore throat or you've been suffering from a bad cough, of course. But if your swallowing trouble continues, see a doctor. It could be caused by acid reflux — or it could be a warning of cancer of the esophagus, throat or stomach according to ACS.
4. Hoarseness, nagging cough
You can get hoarse from allergies or yelling too much for your favorite team. And coughs can linger, especially in the winter months. But if you've had hoarseness or a nagging cough that just doesn't get better, seek medical help. Hoarseness can be a symptom of cancer of the larynx (voice box) or of the thyroid gland. Nagging coughs can warn of lung cancer.
5. Skin sores that just won't heal
If you notice a mole that changes, get checked out for melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer. Other skins changes bear checking out, too, including pigment changes, skin that looks abnormally red or other changes in freckles, moles or warts.
A sore on the lip that won’t heal could be a sign of oral cancer, as can a white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth, according to Mayo Clinic.
6. Changes in bowel or bladder habits
If you're normally a regular Joe or Jane and suddenly you're always all blocked up, that's not normal. Likewise, if you never get diarrhea and now experience it often, that’s not a healthy sign. These changes in bowel habits or bladder habits could be linked with cancer of the colon or rectum. Blood in the urine could be a sign of a urinary tract infection or overzealous workout, or of bladder cancer. Pain when urinating might be linked with prostate cancer. Blood in the stool could be a sign of hemorrhoids or an anal fissure — or an indication of colon polyps or colon cancer.
7. Persistent pain
Pain that persists even after treatment needs to be checked out. That includes headache pain, back pain or other unexplained pain. Headache pain could signal a brain tumor. Back pain can be caused by colon, rectal or ovarian cancer. Testicular cancer and bone cancer can also cause pain.
Related: Could That Headache Be Brain Cancer?
Breast lumps need to be checked out, of course, whether you're a man or a woman. Lumps in other places, including the testicles or lymph nodes, also need examination. Any lump felt through the skin should be seen by a doctor according to ACS.
9. Feeling full very fast
If you are eating about the same amount as always but feel full sooner than usual, tell your doctor. Let the doctor know, too, if that early fullness is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, bloating or weight loss. These symptoms may indicate something very treatable, such as a peptic ulcer, but could also point to pancreatic cancer.
10. Falling-over fatigue
If you're beyond tired and you don't feel refreshed after a good night's sleep, call the doctor for a checkup. That kind of fatigue could point to many things, including chronic fatigue syndrome and post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, but cancer, including leukemia and cancer of the colon or stomach, could be one of them.