“More than one in three people will develop some or the other form of cancer in their lifetime.”
If this doesn’t set off the alarm bells, nothing will.
Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that have the potential to spread to other parts of the body. As cancer treatments work best when cancer is diagnosed early, keeping an eye out for the red flags is the best course of action.
However, noticing one or two of the following symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer.
Cough for more than 3 weeks
A cough is the body’s way of getting rid of unwanted substances. There can be any number of reasons behind cough including, the flu, allergies, colds, or even low humidity. However, cancer-related cough, despite remedies, can persist for a long time. A persistent cough results in a croaky voice which is also known as hoarseness. As a result, a persistently sore throat and hoarseness are considered to be cancer red flags. In fact, they are the first few signs of laryngeal cancer, thyroid cancer and lung cancer.
As the condition worsens, the patient may even start coughing up blood.
Everyday aches and cricks are normal and not anything serious. Pain may mean a multitudinous of things, some of them routine, but it may also indicate an underlying medical condition. However, persistent unexplained pain may be a potential symptom of cancer. The pain is usually a result of
- Chemicals released by cancer
- A growing tumour pushing outwards to make space for itself
- Metastasis (spreading of cancer from one organ to another)
A pain that is new, persistent, sleep-disruptive, and associated with weight loss should not be ignored, and reported immediately.
Tiredness may have a lot of causes with quite a lot of them not related to cancer at all. It stands to reason that a demanding lifestyle or adventure sports can lead to exhaustion. However, if it is persistent and severe enough to affect your daily activities, it might be a symptom of cancer.
As cancer cells grow by using up the body’s energy, it is quite common to experience extreme fatigue in the beginning. This fatigue, however, isn’t similar to the exhaustion of a stressful day. This fatigue doesn’t fade even after proper rest.
Sores and Bruises That Don’t Heal
Skin is the largest organ of the body and reflects our overall health. While most blemishes are harmless, if changes are observed in a mole’s size, colour, or outline, it should be brought to an expert’s notice.
A bruise indicating cancer may get ulcerated or may fail to heal. Such symptomatic skin changes can indicate melanomas.
Further, white spots in the mouth can point to oral cancer while bumps or lumps underneath the skin may be tumours.
Swollen Neck and Indigestion
It is always advised to regularly check breasts and testicles for lumps, but a lumpy neck and a sudden shift in digestive routine can point towards cancer as well.
The person may feel a jam-up in their throat, have difficulty swallowing and suffer from constant bouts of indigestions.
Also, a persistent neck lump (six weeks or more) is a worrying symptom and should be brought to a medical practitioner’s attention right away. These symptoms can be a warning of cancer related to mouth, throat, oesophagus, throat, ear, sinus, stomach, thyroid or larynx.
Though neck swellings can also be a marker of viral infections, these settle down soon enough. Doctors believe that unusual neck growth may be related to lymphoma or blood cancer.
Unusual Bleeding or Discharge
Unusual discharge of blood is a big worry sign. Blood in saliva, stool, urine, or from breasts, is an indication that something is wrong. Both men and women can experience this, no matter if it is light bleeding or a heavy one.
Bleeding between menstrual cycles or after sex can be a cause for deep concern, especially in younger women. Irregular periods may only not be an indicative of health or hormonal problems but of cancer as well. Whatever may be the cause, if any of these symptoms are observed, setting up a doctor’s appointment for further investigation is wise.
Change in Bowel or Bladder Habits
Bowel patterns tend to vary from day to day and are dependent on what you eat and how you feel. Unexplained bowel changes that persist over time can be a warning sign of cancer. The change can be anything, including a change in stool consistency, frequency and calibre. Also, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain or swelling may accompany such a change. These are the most common early signs of colorectal cancer (cancer of large intestines, colon and/or rectum).
Additionally, blood in the urine can be a sign of bladder cancer (one of the most common types of cancer) or kidney cancer and should be reported to a doctor immediately.
Everyone complains of bloating once in a while, especially after a big meal. For women, feeling bloated during the time of the month is normal. However, persistent bloating is a symptom to be worried about. If it lasts for three continuous weeks, it is time to see your doctor.
Unexplained Weight Loss and Tiredness
Losing weight and dropping a size may sound like an exciting prospect to many.
While substantial weight loss due to stress isn’t an indicator of cancer, it should become an undeniable cause of worry if happens without making any significant changes in the diet or workout routine.
Many cancers cause unexplained weight loss as the tumours rob the body of its nutrition and energy. However, despite its occurrence in patients suffering from cancer, it is rarely the first sign of cancer but is usually seen in more advanced stages.
With cancer, early diagnosis is the key. As being clued up is better than being caught in a maelstrom, ignoring these signs is never a wise idea, whatsoever!