For those of us who are aware of a certain type of cancer in our family medical history, we take great pains to watch for those specific signs. We work with a trusted doctor to monitor our health, and help prevent it as much as possible.
Yet, many people don’t notice the signs of a cancer they weren’t expecting. It also doesn’t help that the cancer treatment industry only promotes public awareness for a handful of cancer types. That’s why it’s important to know as much as possible about what your body does when it starts to respond to cancer cells.
Universal Cancer Signs and Symptoms Every form of cancer comes with its own unique collection of signs and symptoms. It all depends on where the cancer cells are and how widespread they’ve become. However, there are certain symptoms that are common to many types of cancer, if not all.
Many of these are related to the way the human body responds to unwanted entities. Others are part of the effect that cancer cells can have on any region in the body. Take a look at some of the most general signs and symptoms that you’re fighting against cancer in your body.
1. Fatigue Cancer cells sap your body’s energy supply. Fatigue is a natural result of your immune system’s response to fighting cancer cells. Some cancers also cause blood loss, producing the same effect. So, if you’re tired no matter how much you sleep, you should seek medical attention. 2. Weight loss If you suddenly drop pounds without reason (no lifestyle or diet changes, and no medication changes), it could be a sign of cancer. According to The American Cancer Society, most cancer patients experience this unexplained weight loss at some point. 3. Fever Fever can be associated with cancers of the immune system, but it also is a sign that any type of cancer is beginning to spread to other areas of the body. 4. Pain Persistent pain in any one area of the body (for example, back pain or headaches) can be associated with certain types of cancer. While different areas are related to different types of cancer, any chronic pain should be looked into. 5. Skin changes These aren’t just associated with skin cancers! Warning signs include finding darkened, yellowed, or reddened skin. 6. Unusual hair growth Once again, this warning sign isn’t limited to skin cancers. What might be the biggest factor for cancer symptoms is a quick change in your body. If you notice something new, consult a doctor about it. 7. Changes in freckles or mole Look out for a change in the color, size, or shape of your freckles and moles. Similar to other skin changes, you should consult a doctor when you notice anything different (especially if it’s also painful). 8. Indigestion This might be one of the most misdiagnosed symptoms, since almost everyone experiences indigestion at some point. Nevertheless, it’s associated with cancers of the upper digestive tract. Look out for difficulty swallowing and stomach pain that doesn’t go away. 9. Lumps or thickening If you notice a new lump, or an old one is changing in size, see your doctor about it. Many types of cancer are associated with growths and tumors that can be felt through the skin. 10. Bleeding There are several forms of cancer that cause unexpected bleeding. The source depends on the cancer type. Signs include coughing up blood, finding blood in stool or urine, or noticing bloody discharge (from somewhere on your skin or mucosal tissue). 11. Sores Sores are associated with a few types of cancer including skin cancers, oral cancer, and cancer affecting the genitals. If you notice the appearance of a sore anywhere on your body, you should seek your doctor about it. 12. Changes in your #1’s If you need to take more trips to the bathroom than usual, or if you’re experiencing pain associated with urinating, it could be a sign of cancers affecting the bladder or prostate. 13. Changes in your #2’s If you’re experiencing regular constipation or diarrhea, or if you have suddenly different stool size, it could be a sign of cancer in the lower digestive tract. The same goes if you experience pain. 14. Coughing If you have a chronic cough or scratchy throat, it could be a warning of developing respiratory tract cancer, such as lung cancer or throat cancer. See your doctor when a cough doesn’t go away. 15. Unusual Lymph Nodes We have multiple lymph nodes all over our bodies. Sometimes, they can feel swollen due to an infection. However, if you notice a lymph node that is uncomfortable, tender, or swollen for several weeks, you should consult your doctor about it. Special Note If you suspect that the symptoms you’re experiencing are signs of cancer, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The sooner you identify and treat cancer, the greater chance you have of beating it before it spreads to other areas of the body (no matter what treatment method you and your doctor decide on).