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When it comes to cancer, catching the signs and symptoms early is crucial. While many cancer symptoms can be shared with other common illnesses, it’s important to pay attention to aches and pains that last longer than usual or get worse with time. Below are some of the common red flags that you should never ignore.
While many people suffer from an occasional cold sore or canker sore, it’s important to keep any eye on any sores in the mouth that don’t seem to be healing. Lingering mouth sores may be an indication of oral cancer, especially if you smoke, drink or use chewing tobacco. Keep an eye out for unusual white patches inside the mouth or on the tongue, as well–these patches are known as leukoplakia, a pre-cancerous lesion that can lead to oral cancer if left untreated.
Rapid Weight Loss:
Unless you are starting a new diet or workout routine, be wary of any sudden, large loss of body weight. While there are a number of other potential explanations for rapid weight loss, it is also a symptom of certain types of cancer, such as pancreatic, lung and stomach cancer. Even if you lead an active lifestyle, extreme weight loss in a short period of time–such as 5 to 10 pounds in a week–should be a warning sign to speak with a medical professional.
Feeling tired isn’t unusual after a busy day, but you might have cause to be concerned if you are dealing with constant fatigue that does not improve with rest and a balanced diet. As with many other signs of cancer, fatigue is a symptom shared by dozens of less serious illnesses, so don’t panic just because you’re feeling tired. Instead, speak with your physician to explore the root cause.
Skin cancer is one of the easiest cancers to detect early, due to the presence of visible skin changes. If you discover a wart, mole, freckle or skin tag that seems to be changing color, shape or size, speak to a professional right away. Dark patches on the skin are another common sign of melanoma, especially if the border of the discolored area begins to fade. If you spend much of your work or recreational time outdoors, always take proper precautions and stay vigilant for any changes to your skin.
While it is rare, unusual or long-lasting pain can be a symptom of brain, bone and testicular cancer. If you suffer from chronic pain that doesn’t seem to have any cause, and if the pain doesn’t lessen over time, you should make an appointment with a doctor to pin down the cause and ensure that you are not dealing with a cancerous growth.
A lump or painful swelling in the breasts, testicles or lymph nodes is often a warning sign for cancer. Both men and women should examine themselves for lumps at least once a month, since breast and testicular cancer can take hold rapidly. While it is much less common, keep in mind that cancerous lumps can form in other places as well, so don’t hesitate to contact your physician if you notice an odd lump under your skin, especially near your joints.
Several forms of cancer are commonly accompanied by bleeding, which should never be ignored. Coughing up blood may be a sign of lung or throat cancer, particularly if you are having trouble swallowing. Blood in your urine or stool may indicate colon, bladder or prostate cancer. Finally, women should watch for excessive spotting between periods, as this symptom is commonly associated with cervical cancer.
Few people visit the doctor as often as they should, which makes it even more important to pay attention to warning signs to catch cancer before it has the chance to grow or spread. If you notice symptoms that worsen or linger for an unusually long period of time, don’t waste time. Speaking with your health care professional.