In its early stages, cancer usually has no symptoms, but eventually a malignant tumor will grow large enough to be detected. As it continues to grow, it may press on nerves and produce pain, penetrate blood vessels and cause bleeding, or interfere with the function of a body organ or system.
To remember the seven early warning signs of cancer (as designated by the American Cancer Society), think of the word CAUTION:
C: Change in bowel or bladder habits.
Having to urinate a lot, or feeling that you need to go but can’t, are both insidious signs of bladder cancer, which strikes more than 67,000 Americans annually. Men are about 3 times more likely than women to develop it, and older people are more likely to be affected. Reddish-yellow or occasionally dark red urine are also possible signs.
And, as mentioned above, needing to urinate frequently or feeling you have to go right away can also be subtle signs of ovarian cancer. Like many other nonspecific signs of cancer, urinary problems can also signal other conditions besides cancer, especially urinary tract infection or prostate enlargement in men.
A: A sore that does not heal can be sure shot sign of malignancy. Here, of course diabetes has to be ruled out. For example, non-healing ulcer in the mouth can be due to oral cancer.
U: Unusual bleeding or discharge.
- Blood in sputum could be due to lung cancer.
- Abnormal menstrual bleeding or vaginal discharge could be due to cancer of the cervix or cancer of the endometrium of the uterus.
- Blood in urine could be due to cancer of the kidneys or bladder.
- Discharge tinged with blood from the nipple could be due to breast cancer.
- Blood in stools could be due to colorectal cancer or cancer of the stomach.
- Bleeding from the nose could be due to leukemia.
T: Thickening or lump in the breast, testicles, or elsewhere.
Finding a lump in her breast can make any woman’s heart sink. While a lump is the most common sign of breast cancer, there are other more subtle signs to look out for. Swelling of the whole breast or part of it, especially if there is skin redness or discoloration, can signal a rare, highly aggressive, and deadly form or cancer, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). Skin irritation, dimpling. itching, or scaliness; thickening of the nipple or breast skin; and nipple discharge other than milk can be other warning signs of IBC and other types of breast cancer.
And it’s not just women who should look for these signs. About 2000 men in the US were diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and about 450 died from it. Men who’ve been exposed to chest radiation should be particularly vigilant. The good news is that whether you’re a man or a woman, breast cancer that’s found early is highly treatable.
I: Indigestion or difficulty swallowing. Frequent indigestion may indicate stomach cancer. Difficulty in swallowing may indicate cancer of the esophagus. This occurs due to the cancer growth which narrows the lumen of the esophagus.
O: Obvious change in the size, color, shape, or thickness of a wart, mole, or mouth sore.
N: Nagging cough or hoarseness.
Hoarseness is easily chalked up to a cold or allergy, or even to straining your voice. But persistent hoarseness should be heeded. People who suffer from GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease) often complain of hoarse voice, which is caused when stomach acids push up into the esophagus. However, as one might suspect, chronic hoarseness is common among smokers and can be a sign of throat or lung cancer. A hoarse voice can also signal esophageal, stomach, and thyroid cancer.
The following symptoms may also signal the presence of some form of cancer:
- Persistent headaches
- Unexplained loss of weight or appetite
Most of us seem to be forever trying to shed a few pounds. But losing weight when not trying can be an important tell-tale sign of cancer. Indeed, according to the American Cancer Society, losing more than 10 pounds unintentionally is the first sign of many cancers. Unexplained weight loss is particularly common in cancer of the stomach, pancreas, lung, and occasionally kidney cancer. As might be expected, loss of appetite is also common – although some patients lose weight despite having a good appetite and eating normally. Some also report nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.
- Chronic pain in bones or other areas of the body
- Persistent fatigue, nausea, or vomiting
- Persistent low-grade fever, either constant or intermittent
- Repeated instances of infection
Call Your Doctor About Cancer If:
You develop symptoms that may signal cancer, are not clearly linked to another cause, and persist for more than two weeks. You should schedule a medical exam. If the cause of your symptoms is cancer, early diagnosis and treatment will offer a better chance of cure.