Cancer is like the scary monster hiding under your bed when you were a kid. You are almost so afraid it will really be there, that you don’t want to look and find out.
Unlike those imaginary monsters, cancer is very real and very deadly. If it has begun an invasion in your body, you need to know about it! Early detection is absolutely critical for successful treatment and recovery.
Therefore you should be aware that some cancer symptoms are easily, and commonly, overlooked.
“We aren’t sure why, but it seems there is a mismatch between what people know in practice and whether they apply the knowledge to themselves,” said Katriina Whitaker, Ph.D., a senior research fellow at the University College London.
“So while awareness of many of these signs and symptoms is quite high, very few people mention cancer as a possible cause when it’s them who is experiencing the symptom.”
Mysterious pain that doesn’t go away
As explained on cancer.org: “Pain may be an early symptom with some cancers like bone cancers or testicular cancer. A headache that does not go away or get better with treatment may be a symptom of a brain tumor.
Back pain can be a symptom of cancer of the colon, rectum, or ovary. Most often, pain due to cancer means it has already spread (metastasized) from where it started.”
Ongoing changes in bladder habits or bowel movements
Colon cancer can sometimes cause changes in bowel movements, such as long-term diarrhea or constipation. Changes associated with bladder functions such as painful urination or the presence of blood in the urine can be linked with cancers of the bladder or prostate.
Continued changes with bladder or bowel functions should always be discussed with your physician.
Hoarseness or continuing cough
“Most coughs are not cancer,” explained Therese Bartholomew Bevers, M.D., professor of clinical cancer prevention and the medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. “But certainly a persistent cough needs to be evaluated to see if it could be lung cancer.”
If you find yourself suffering from long-term hoarseness, a chronic cough, or find the presence of blood accompanying coughs, it should definitely be evaluated by your physician.
Prolonged presence of a fever
Cancer.org explains: “Fever is very common with cancer, but it more often happens after cancer has spread from where it started. Almost all people with cancer will have fever at some time, especially if the cancer or its treatment affects the immune system. (This can make it harder for the body to fight infection.) Less often, fever may be an early sign of cancer, such as blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma.”
Sores that don’t heal and other skin changes
Sores that are not healed after three weeks are definitely a cause for concern. This can be a sign of carcinoma.
“We would have expected our body to have healed itself by now,” explains Bevers, “and you should absolutely get that checked out.”
Also be cautious of any moles that change in appearance, or new marks that appear on the skin for no apparent reason. These should always be pointed out to your physician, or consult with a dermatologist to rule out skin cancer.
Dimpling or discoloration of breasts
Most women know to look out for lumps in the breast. However, other changes can also be warning signs. Be watchful for dimpling of the skin, inverting of a nipple, unusual swelling, strange tenderness, or unexplained discolorations of the skin.
“Those signs don’t necessarily mean it’s cancer, but that’s exactly why women delay seeking help because they’re hoping it’s nothing,” explains Richard Wender, M.D., chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society.
Thankfully, in many cases, symptoms do not turn out to be caused by cancer, but because the possibility exists, it should not be overlooked. You should always consult your physician if you experience symptoms that could be a cause for concern.