Easily overlooked cancer symptoms

While many minor health issues may seem easily negligible, there’s a chance that if they last longer than a week or month, their seemingly innocuous symptoms may be a sign of something worse.

We’re not trying to alarm you, but it does pay to keep an eye on these easily overlooked cancer symptoms.

Changes in your skin
Australia is the skin cancer capital of the world, so you should keep a close eye on your skin, especially spots that change shape and colour.

Consistent cough
If you’re not a smoker but still have a nagging cough, there’s a small chance it could be cancer. Or it may be a post-nasal drip, an infection or acid reflux. If you cough up blood, get yourself to a GP stat.

Breast changes
While most breast changes are innocent, you should still have them checked out because the one time you don’t check them out could be the one you didn’t want to miss. Any changes, such as lumps, discharge, redness or thickening should be closely monitored by you and a health professional.

Bloating
It may just be too much broccoli and beans, another dietary change or even stress, but coupled with weight loss, fatigue and back pain means you should get yourself checked out.

Problems peeing
Many men will have issues peeing as they get older, such as having to go more often, a weak stream or even trouble getting the pee out. These are usually signs of a swollen prostate, but they could also be prostate cancer.

Swollen neck glands
Your lymph nodes are small glands in your neck, armpits, groin and other places in your body. Swollen lymph nodes usually indicate an infection of some sort, but leukaemia and lymphoma cancer also start with swollen glands.

Blood in your pee or poo
Any time you see blood, you should visit your doctor. If it’s in your stool it could be haemorrhoids, or it could be colon cancer. Blood in your pee could be a sign you’ve eaten too much beetroot or it could be a urinary tract infection, kidney or bladder cancer.

Testicular changes
Swelling or other lumps in one or both testicles could be a sign of testicular cancer. It may seem painless, but that’s the most common sign. Also, monitor any heavy feeling in your lower stomach or scrotum or if your testicles feel larger.

Swallowing
What may seem like symptoms of a common cold, flu or sore throat could be throat or oesophageal cancer. If you have trouble swallowing and if that lasts for more than a week or so, see your doctor for tests.

Vaginal bleeding
Bleeding outside of a monthly cycle may be a sign of uterine, cervical or vaginal cancer.

Mouth issues
While bad breath and some mouth sores may not be serious issues, you should keep an eye out for white or red patches in your mouth that stick around for a few weeks, especially if you’re a smoker. Other signs of cancer are lumps in your neck, general mouth pain and trouble moving your jaw.

Unexplained weight loss
Many people dream of losing weight without trying, but if you experience weight loss without changing your daily exercise or diet regimen, it could be explained by a thyroid or stress issue, otherwise it could be the first stages of cancer.

Fever
Fever can simply be a sign of the body fighting off infection or a reaction to some food or medication, but persistent fever could be a sign of blood cancer.

Heartburn or indigestion
Diet or stress can cause heartburn and indigestion, but if you experience these on an ongoing basis, and lifestyle changes don’t help, then you should see your doctor.

Fatigue
Lack of sleep, too much physical activity, poor diet and disturbed sleep can lead to fatigue. However, ongoing fatigue can also be a sign of leukaemia, stomach or colon cancer. If you’re tired all the time, go see a GP.

While these symptoms can be fixed with simple (or not-so-simple) lifestyle changes, experiencing them consistently could be a sign of something worse. Sure, reading this may make you a little bit anxious, but being armed with these first-stage signs could also save your life.

Have you ever experienced any of these symptoms? Do you know of any others that may be a sign of something worse?

This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Related articles:
Cancer can be a result of bad luck
Cancer tests and when to have them
Study: cancer death is avoidable

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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