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10 Cancer Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

  • Category: Cancer
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Lauren Juneja, Hematology Oncology
10 Cancer Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Keeping up with preventive screenings is important, but in between, listen to your body for possible early warning signs. In general, when new issues or symptoms develop or progress quickly, or persist for weeks, pay close attention and stay in contact with your doctor.

Of course not every symptom that has a connection to cancer will actually be cancer, but here are 10 symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.

  1. Unexplained weight loss – As cancer cells grow, they’re using up a lot of the body’s energy, which means you burn more calories at rest. This is a symptom in more than a third of cancers in older people, and may or may not be tied to a loss of appetite.
  1. Abnormal/unusual bleeding – Blood in the stool could be a sign of colorectal cancer while vaginal bleeding is a common symptom in all gynecologic cancers except vulvar, and blood in the urine is a symptom in prostate cancer. Vomiting blood is a medical emergency and should be checked out right away – it could be a sign of stomach/esophageal cancer. Lung cancer can cause bleeding in the airway, which can make you cough up blood.
  1. Changes in the breast – Though new lumps are a common sign of breast cancer, it can show up in various ways like dimpling, discoloration, changes around the nipple or unusual discharge.
  1. Abnormal pelvic pain or bloating – Persistent pelvic pain could be sign of cervical, uterine or ovarian, and feeling bloated for more than two weeks could be sign of ovarian or gastrointestinal cancers.
  1. Changes in bathroom habits – In addition to blood in the stool, persistent diarrhea or constipation, black stools, or not feeling like emptying during a bowel movement are common symptoms of colorectal cancer colon. Frequent urination can also be a symptom in both prostate, ovarian and vaginal cancer.
  1. Skin changes – Know the ABCDEs of melanoma, the most invasive type of skin cancer. If you notice spots that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders or varying color, or that are changing or bleeding, get them checked out by a dermatologist.
  1. Persistent fever – A low-grade fever for weeks at a time could be consistent with lymphoma and leukemia if there’s no other obvious cause.
  1. Chronic headaches – Many people with brain tumors experience dull, achy, tension-like headaches that progressively get worse over weeks or even months, and not sudden and intense ones. If yours persist for more than two weeks and don’t respond to medication, see your doctor.
  1. Severe back pain – Intense pain that lasts more than a few days and doesn’t respond to various treatments could be a cancer that’s affecting the spine.
  1. Oral changes – Persistent sores or painful areas in the mouth could be a sign of oral cancer and should be checked out by your doctor or dentist.
Make sure you are up-to-date on your preventive cancer screenings – here is a handy guide.

Lauren Juneja​​

Lauren Juneja, MD
Hematology Oncology
Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center
(225) 215-0800