Serious symptoms you should not ignore

January 31, 2018 | by Hollis W. Walker, M.D.

Our bodies are always changing, especially when we are under stress. It’s one of the reasons why it is so important to slow down and take care of yourself when you don’t feel good.

Since cancer is most treatable when it is caught early, it is also important to pay attention when something doesn’t look or feel right.

Here are 9 cancer-related symptoms to look out for:  

  1. Unexplained weight loss. An unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more may be the first sign of a disease like cancer. Rapid weight loss happens most often with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus and lung.

  2. A persistent cough or hoarseness. At least half of people diagnosed with lung cancer have a chronic cough or a “cough that just won’t go away” at the time of their diagnosis. If a cough is associated with other symptoms like the ones below, schedule a visit with your doctor:

    • Coughing blood or rust-colored phlegm
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain

  3. Skin changes. A change in your skin is often the first sign that something may be wrong. In some cases, the skin can show signs of an internal disease before the disease advances and becomes more serious. In other cases, a change is noticeable on the skin long after the disease begins causing damage internally. Looking at your skin now? Here’s how to tell the difference between a mole and melanoma.  

  4. Fatigue. Tired all of the time? Check your thyroid. If you are getting enough quality sleep and you’re still feeling extremely fatigued, your body may be showing a sign of cancer. Fatigue almost feels like you have the flu, but without other flu symptoms.

  5. Pain. Pain may be an early symptom of some cancers like bone cancers or testicular cancers. This type of pain may come and go, or get more severe as time passes. If you have a headache that won’t go away, or severe and consistent back pain, let your physician know.

  6. Changes in your bowel or bladder habits. Blood in the urine is the first sign of bladder cancer (although it is often caused by an infection or something benign). Blood may be present one day and gone the next. If you also notice one of these changes in urination, have it checked out:

    • Having to urinate more often than usual
    • Pain or burning during urination
    • Feeling as if you need to go right away, even when the bladder is not full
    • Having trouble urinating or having a weak urine stream

  7. Sores that are not healing. Wounds that won’t heal could be a symptom of basal and squamous cell skin cancers. These types of cancers don’t heal, or heal and then come back. Both basal and squamous cell skin cancers also develop as a flat area, showing only slight changes from normal skin. Have it checked out by your doctor or a dermatologist. 

  8. An unexplained lump. Lumps with or without pain that get harder overtime should be examined by a doctor. Look for these signs of breast and head and neck cancers.

  9. Difficulty swallowing or feeling like there is food stuck in your throat or chest. The most common symptom of esophageal cancer is a problem swallowing, with a feeling like the food is stuck in the throat or chest, or even choking on food. If you notice yourself taking smaller bites or switching up your diet to eat things easier, pick up the phone and call your physician. 

This doesn’t mean that every ache and pain you have could be a sign of cancer — it’s persistent symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore. When your body keeps telling you that something is wrong, pay attention!

How do you remind yourself to schedule your yearly check-up? Tell us in the below comments.

Related blogs:

How to do your part to not get cancer

Does a lump always mean cancer?

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