Cancer Symptoms that you should not ignore

Recognizing the symptoms of cancer at an early stage is quite essential to get appropriate treatments before it spreads to other parts of the body. Although a lot of advanced treatments are available to treat cancer, intervention at an early stage is better. When you don’t ignore the symptoms of cancer to catch the disease early, you have more chances of defeating cancer and choosing life over it!

Most of the cancers are treatable when they are detected in an early stage called stage 1 or stage 2.

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Stages of Cancer

Stage 1 – the specific organ is affected by the growth of tumor cells
Stage 2 – the surrounding cells and tissues of the organ are infected with tumors
Stage 3 – the specific part of the body surrounding the organ is affected
Stage 4 – tumor cells spread all over the body

Example: Breast cancer

Cancer cells affect the milk glands of the nipple
Cancer cells grow around the breast cells and tissues
Cancer cells affect the whole breast
Cancer cells starts spreading to other parts of the body
So, it is essential to detect or identify the symptoms of cancer to get appropriate treatment before it worsens.

How Cancer Spreads?

Cancer cells or the tumors are found in every individual. Non-cancerous cells are called benign tumors and cancerous cells are called malignant tumors. Several facts contribute to the transformation of benign tumors into malignancy. The tumor mostly attacks the weakest parts of the body and grows in a form of malignancy. The transformation from benign to malignancy is triggered by poor immunity, existing diseases, lifestyle, food habits, etc.

Common Symptoms of Cancer that should not be ignored

Following are some common basic symptoms associated with most types of cancers. However, don’t panic if you develop any such sign as most of these symptoms are associated with many other health conditions. But yes, you should not ignore these symptoms and get yourself checked to rule out the possibility of any cancerous growth in your body.
Be clear, this is just a precaution to alert you that most of the cancer survivors experienced these symptoms. The presence or detection of these symptoms need not necessarily be cancerous!

These basic cancer symptoms are often associated with other warning signs. If you suffer from any of these symptoms with frequent repetition or if these symptoms continue to aggravate over time, consult a physician and get it diagnosed.

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Unexplained weight loss may be a symptom of cancer

When you lose weight for no reason (no change in diet, no extra exercises, no medicines, etc.) it is referred as unexplained weight loss. Most of the cancer patients and cancer survivors lost weight at some point of time. It can be a sudden weight loss or gradual weight loss often left unnoticed over time. People with cancer can lose from 10 pounds to 15 pounds dramatically. This is often noticed as a first sign of cancer over other cancer symptoms. Therefore, you should not ignore any unexplained weight loss.
Don’t get glad when you notice sudden weight loss. Get yourself checked up medically!

Hoarseness of voice may indicate cancer

Getting a coarse voice or hoarseness in your voice is quite normal during cough, cold and throat infection. Besides, it is also very normal among those who drink regularly. The texture of the voice turns a bit hard and rough when you consume alcohol regularly. However, if the voice turns coarse suddenly and remain rough for a prolonged period, make sure to check with a doctor and identify the cause of the change in voice.
In case of teens, this may not be applicable. Teenage guys and girls tend to develop a different voice texture during and after puberty. However, if you are an adult and your voice suddenly changes without any reason, consult your doctor, don’t ignore as this may be a sign of cancer.

Persistent bloating is a common symptom of cancer

Bloating is something very common among many people. Especially, women tend to suffer from bloating for many reasons. Poor eating, eating unhealthy foods, hormonal disturbances, etc. lead to bloating. In fact, bloating comes and goes. However, if you feel bloated constantly and experience bloating for more than a month or so, make sure to diagnose the cause of bloating.
Sometimes, poor digestive functions and chronic gastritis (when it is not treated) also lead to persistent bloating. However, don’t ignore this symptom and consult your physician to rule out cancer.

Delayed healing of wounds

In most cases, the skin repairs itself over time. Most of the wounds and bruises and even mild fractures heal naturally when you are young. The healing process might delay to some extent as you age. Skin heals most of the wounds by itself in a week or 10 days. If you have a wound or warts or sore that doesn’t get healed over time, let it examined by a  doctor because this is one of the symptoms of cancer you should not ignore.

Sometimes when you develop diabetes, you will face difficulty in healing wounds. Even if it’s diabetes, you need to diagnose it and get proper treatment. Don’t ignore wounds that don’t heal. They may be the symptoms of cancer as well as diabetes. 

Painless lumps are also symptoms of cancer

Lumps are somewhat scary. It is a mass of muscles accumulated at a single spot. It can be noncancerous or cancerous. Lumps can be found near under arms, breast, neck, etc. It can be painful or painless. Often, sudden onset of painless lump is a sign of cancer. This is more common among women as one of the symptoms of breast cancer.
Don’t ignore any lump, especially those that do not cause pain. They may be cancerous tumors.

Unusual changes in breast- a symptom of cancer in women

Lumps are not the only warning signs of cancer that you get in the breasts. Change in skin texture, shape, size, etc. of the breasts also indicate breast cancer.
Women should not ignore any unusual appearance or feeling in their breasts, these can be symptoms of cancer in breasts.

Changes in the testicles- a symptom of cancer in men

Similar to breast in women, men may notice abnormalities in the testicles. This indicates cancer or injury to the testicles. The abnormalities refer to lumps or heaviness or change in the structure or size of the testicles.
Men, therefore, should not ignore any unusual changes in testicles and consult their physicians to rule out cancerous growths.

Blood in stool or urine is one of the common symptoms of cancer

It is abnormal to notice blood in your poo or pee. It can be a warning sign for other conditions like urinary tract infection, kidney problems, etc. You should report to  a doctor immediately to diagnose the cause of bloody discharge. If it is not a sign of cancer, it is often treated quickly.
Don’t ignore any of the body discharge-vaginal, urinal or anal. Keep track of your urine and stool and get yourself checked if you see blood there.

Persistent or frequent onset of fever

Cancer cells grow when the immune system is malfunctioning. In such case, the body cannot resist and fight infections due to poor immunity. As a result, most people with cancer are more likely to suffer from fever often.
If you have fever that just doesn’t go away or recurs frequently without any explainable reason, don’t ignore and get yourself checked to find out its cause, which may be cancer in some cases.

Extreme Fatigue is a sign of cancer too

It refers to the extent of fatigue that doesn’t get improved with rest. It is actually a symptom that indicates the spread of cancer cells in the body. Fatigue is caused by loss of blood and more commonly diagnosed with stomach and colon cancer.
Hypothyroidism and hepatitis are other two health conditions that cause extreme fatigue. Therefore, while it is not at all essential that chronic fatigue might be due to cancer but at the same time, you should not ignore this symptom. Whatever the cause is behind extreme fatigue needs to be addressed.

Cancer Symptoms of Most Prevalent Cancer Types not to Ignore

Beyond some common cancer symptoms, there are specific warning signs and symptoms of cancer associated with different types of cancer. Certain forms of cancer are deadlier, either due to lack of knowledge about the symptoms or no symptoms at all. Following are the symptoms of cancer categorized according to the type of popular forms of cancer causing death upon negligence.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer not to Ignore

Almost one in every two women is exposed to the risk of developing breast cancer. The onset of breast cancer is often diagnosed in 40 plus women. However, due to the unhealthy lifestyle and diet, even women in late 20s and early 30s are diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is one of the deadliest cancer types in the world. In fact, recognizing breast cancer symptoms is much easier than other forms of cancer. Following are the symptoms of breast cancer:

Change in the size or shape of the breast and nipples

Asymmetrical breast is common. More than 95 % women population have asymmetrical breast. However, if one breast differs a lot from the other, it can be a warning sign of cancer.
Similarly, change in the shape of the breast (not necessarily sagginess of the breast) also indicates the onset of breast cancer.
  • Unexplained shrinkage of any part or whole breast
  • Unexplained swelling of the breast
  • Dimpling on the breast
  • Tenderness of the nipples
  • Nipples turned inward
(However, all this may also happen if you are in the process of weight loss)
Once diagnosed at an early stage, breast cancer treatment options are many. You can get well sooner than you imagine. Just be aware and alert and don’t ignore the early symptoms of cancer.

Breast Discharge

Breast discharge cannot be ignored as it is a major sign of breast cancer. Unless you are  a mother of a lactating baby or the one who stopped lactating the baby recently, breast discharge is unusual. Check with your physician immediately to diagnose the cause of breast discharge. To give you relief, let yourself know that there are few other conditions that lead to breast discharge. So, it doesn’t necessarily mean breast cancer but yes, don’t ignore it!

Lumps in the breast and armpits

As mentioned earlier, growth of lumps without any pain is risky. Especially, if you notice any lump in your breast or near the armpits, don’t ignore. It can be a symptom of breast cancer.

Changes in the breast skin

Any change in the skin color or texture on your breast should be diagnosed medically. If you have breast cancer, the breast skin appears with enlarged pores, which may be similar to the texture of the orange peel.
In a simple note, if you notice any changes in appearance, texture and feel of the breast, check immediately with your doctor.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer in Men

Breast cancer affects men too! In fact, detecting the symptoms of breast cancer in men is literally simple. Any lump or swelling in the breast tissue generally indicates the breast cancer. Since breast tissue is relatively flat or smaller in men, they can easily detect the growth of lumps. In addition, scaling of the nipple, discharge, redness, puckering, etc. also indicate breast cancer. However, these signs may also indicate some allergic reaction. When you notice the changes in the breast tissue or nipple, be alert.
Don’t ignore these symptoms and get yourself checked to rule out cancer.

Lung Cancer Symptoms not to Ignore

People who smoke are exposed to the risk of lung cancer. Even non-smokers are equally at risk of developing cancer. People who live with smokers and those who work in factories that are associated with chemicals and fertilizers are more likely to develop lung cancer. Following are the common symptoms of lung cancer that one should not ignore.
Lung cancer symptoms are infamous. Some of the common symptoms of lung cancer are as follows:

Lung Cancer Symptoms associated with throat

  • Coughing as well as coughing that continues to worsen with no improvement.
  • Constant irritation of the throat, which makes swallowing foods and even water very difficult over time.
  • Irritability of the throat accompanied by hoarse voice
  • Blood discharge while coughing or spitting blood

Lung Cancer Symptoms associated with the heart

  • Pressure on the chest, which makes breathing somewhat difficult
  • Experiencing shortness of breath, too often
  • Intensity of the chest pain that increases when coughing and even laughing

Other symptoms of Lung Cancer

  • Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
The symptom is accompanied with sore or irritating throat. Since it makes eating difficult, people with throbbing throat are more likely to avoid eating and this leads to sudden weight loss
  • Feeling extremely tired and weak
Poor respiratory functions and lack of good appetite make the person exhausted.
It is apparent that if you are a smoker and experience any of these symptoms, don’t ignore it as it may be the symptom of cancer affecting your lungs.

Oral Cancer Symptoms not to Ignore

Oral cancer is one of the major forms of cancer. In fact, deaths caused by oral cancer is more, almost twice of lung cancer. The major reason behind this is tobacco usage.  Most of the symptoms of lung cancer associated with throat are applicable to oral cancer also. In addition, following are the symptoms of oral cancer.
  • Sore in mouth without improvement
  • Patches in the mouth in white or red color
  • Soreness of the throat that doesn’t heal or improve with medicines
  • Moderate to severe ear pain
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Lump or lumps in the lips or neck or mouth or cheek

Stomach Cancer Symptoms not to Ignore

Stomach cancer is yet another leading cause of death and one of the top three cancers. Some of the stomach cancer symptoms are also associated with chronic gastritis, digestive malfunctions, etc.
  • Poor appetite and inflammation of abdomen
  • Poor indigestion
  • Chronic heartburn
  • Getting a sensation of fuller stomach even after you eat only a few bites of food
  • Constant diarrhea or constipation
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Extremely to moderate tiredness
  • Blood in your stool (an important warning sign of cancer)
  • UNEXPLAINED Weight Loss
If you suffer from heartburn accompanied by bloated belly and indigestion does not necessarily indicate stomach cancer. However, if you experience unexplained weight loss, pain in and around the stomach or dramatic change in your bowel movement, don’t ignore and get a diagnosis.

Stomach Cancer Vs Colon Cancer

Stomach cancer is a collective term which refers to growth of cancer cells in any part of the stomach. It includes abdomen, liver, pancreas, large intestine, rectum, etc.
However, colon cancer and colorectal cancer is different. Colon cancer refers to cancer growth in colon, i.e. large intestine and colorectal cancer refers to the growth of cancer cells found in the last part of the colon. Both colon and colorectal cancer are classified as stomach cancer.
Both colon and colorectal cancer are very rare in India and several parts of south Asia!  The secret ingredient that prevents colon cancer is ‘Turmeric’! While colon and colorectal cancer remains one of the death causing cancer in the western countries, it has very low incidence in India and other south Asian countries.

Cervical Cancer Symptoms not to Ignore by Women

One of the most common cancer types that is often ignored or overlooked by women is cervical cancer Women are affected more by breast cancer and cervical cancer. This cancer is caused by a viral infection and normally the early signs of cervical cancer don’t show up in most cases. However, knowledge about the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer can help getting proper treatment before the cancer spreads to other organs.
Unfortunately, early detection of cervical cancer in maximum cases is difficult. But luckily, there is an option of getting vaccine to prevent this cancer. Want to know about it? Here are Some FAQ- Cervical Cancer and HPV Vaccine.
Let’s also know about the cervical cancer symptoms that women should not ignore.

Vaginal Abnormalities

Most of the symptoms associated with cervical cancer revolve around vaginal abnormalities. Vaginal white discharge (even with unpleasant odor) is normal, yet it can be a dreadful sign of cancer. If you suffer from persistent vaginal discharge in any form, don’t ignore, don’t hesitate or delay in consulting a physician.
  • White vaginal discharge with foul or unpleasant odor (almost every day)
  • White vaginal discharge with tints of blood
  • Bloody discharge
  • Watery vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause

Pain and Discomforts

Cervical cancer is indicated by a lot of discomforts. Unfortunately, most women experience many of these symptoms under various circumstances.
  • Urinary tract infection – pain while urinating or irritating or itching during urination
  • Difficulty in defecating and urinating
  • Pain in the lower back and pelvis
  • Inflammation of legs due to poor urination
  • Pain during intercourse (sudden onset of pain)
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse, which is generally abnormal
Spotting minor bleeding may seem to be nothing. However, vaginal bleeding after sex or in between periods, in most cases turns out to be symptoms of cervical cancer.
This particular form of cancer spreads at a very slow pace and progress very slowly. In some cases, no pain or other symptoms are diagnosed until the advanced stage. So, screening for cervical cancer is recommended in all younger women.
Now cervical cancer can be prevented by getting a vaccination against the virus. Girls who attained puberty can get this vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.

Brain Cancer or Brain Tumor Symptoms not to Ignore

Brain cancer is a silent killer. A healthy young man can fall prey to death due to brain tumor. In a majority of cases, brain tumor is diagnosed at a later stage. Early intervention helps treating cancer.
You could have heard a lot of stories about the sudden death of many youngsters caused by brain tumor. Most of the brain tumor patients were diagnosed with this cancer only after experiencing the following symptoms for a long time. These symptoms, however, are quite undetectable because severe and incessant headache is one of the symptoms of brain tumors! Don’t panic though. Headaches need not be a sign of a tumor in your brain. This can be migraine or some other condition which leads to headache. Yet, there are chances that it may be an indication of brain cancer. So, don’t ignore too!
General symptoms of brain cancer include,
  • Severe incessant or frequent headaches
  • Seizures
  • Loss of control over the body functions, say sudden fall, slipping on the stairs, unable to ride or drive vehicles, etc. (it doesn’t last long)
  • Shortness of breath for less than a minute which makes the skin tone of the person turn blue
  • Sensory changes
  • Poor memory and inability to recall
Experiencing one or more of the above symptoms should not be ignored as most of the combination of symptoms are diagnosed in brain cancer patients.

Symptoms of Melanoma not to Ignore

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer indicated by changes in the skin tone, texture and moles. It is very common among fair skinned people. People with darker skin are less likely to develop melanoma. Following are the symptoms of melanoma you should not ignore.

Abnormal Moles

Generally, moles are considered birth marks. A normal mole appears black to dark brown spot on the skin. Moles vary in size and shape. Normal moles appear like a ‘dot’ on the skin and some people have moles that are broad and raised. Regardless of shape and size, the moles present during the birth is normal. Some moles even appear during childhood and teenage. These are quite normal. However, development of any mole during  adulthood or later in life should be examined by a doctor. Also, change in size and shape of the moles during adulthood should not be ignored as this can be the symptom of cancer.

ABCDE Symptoms of Melanoma you should not ignore

Melanoma attacks the skin. Skin is very sensitive organ and it can easily show up the symptoms.
Asymmetry – half a mole changes in color or shape, one half doesn’t match the other half of the mole
Border – irregular, itchy, ragged edges of moles
Color  – change of the skin color in patches, varies from red, white, black and brown
Diameter – The size of the mole gets more than 1/4 inch or 6 mm
Evolution – Skin changes, evolves in different ways

Leukemia or Blood Cancer Symptoms not to Ignore

Also termed as leukemia, blood cancer is characterized by abnormal growth of white blood which depletes the red blood cells in the body. The symptoms of this cancer that you should not ignore include:
  • No appetite
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Paleness of body
  • Fatigue
  • Bruising all over the body
  • Incessant bleeding
  • Intermittent fever, infections and cough with blood discharge

Childhood Cancer Symptoms not to Ignore

Even the children aren’t exempted from the evil hands of cancer. A lot of children develop cancer cells, even before they become teens. In fact, childhood cancer symptoms start between 4 to 8 years of age. Most of the kids are affected by stomach cancer and blood cancer. Some of the cancer symptoms that should not be ignored in children, include the following:
  • Sudden weight loss – Children tend to gain weight and lose weight due to many reasons. If you notice persistent weight loss with no traces of gaining weight, it may be a sign of cancer.
  • Bored, tired and with no energy (constantly) – Children are literally very active even when they are sick! So, ensure that you check with a doctor immediately when you see them exhausted all the time.
  • Constant pain all over body
  • Paleness
  • Sudden limping
  • Unusual lumps or swelling in the body
  • Frequent illness
  • Poor appetite or vomiting every time they eat
If you notice more than one of the above signs in your child, rush to a physician and make sure that the signs aren’t associated with cancer.

How to identify the symptoms of cancer?

You have read a lot of warning signs and symptoms about cancer. Know your body well!

Cancer symptoms manifest in these ways:

  • Noticeable Changes – Weight loss, change in voice, appearance of skin, etc
  • Change in structure of organs – Breast changes, swelling of testicles, swelling of neck etc
  • Deprived health and poor  immunity – falling ill too often, extreme tiredness and fatigue, difficulty in swallowing

What can you do?

  • It is the right time to check yourself in a mirror. Check and ensure that you are normal and identify the skin pattern, mole, etc.
  • Women should do self-breast examination once a month, immediately after periods to detect any changes in the breast.
  • Self check your personal health and hygiene. How often you get cold or suffer from vaginal infection?
When you can sit before  a mirror for hours to enhance your beauty, spend a few minutes to learn about your body too.

Can you reduce the risk of cancer?

Yes! Yet, the bitter truth is every individual in the world is exposed to the risk of some form of cancer. Although you can brace yourself to a great extent, cancer runs in the genes. If you have a family history of cancer, you have a 80 % chance of getting cancer. Still, a few more precautions help you delay the onset of cancer for those with a family history of cancer.
  • Reduce the junk foods and sugary, carbonated beverages. This is the major cause of stomach cancer, endometrial cancer, etc
  • Be active, fit and energetic. Lethargic lifestyle and obesity are connected deeply with cancer.
  • Eat foods rich in anti-oxidants. Cancer cells don’t grow, rather they cannot grow in an oxygenated environment. Sip green tea
  • Eat natural white foods and red foods. Cabbage, nuts, cauliflower, garlic, fish, etc. and grapes, pome, apple, cherries, berries, beets, etc.
  • Avoid taking painkillers often. Painkillers suppress your immunity and invites growth of tumors
  • Sleep in a dark room. It balances your estrogen, regulate the brain sleep-wake cycle, and reduce risk of breast cancer.
Simply stated, eat healthy foods and increase intake of natural produce, be active and do some exercise, sleep well! And yes, don’t ignore the symptoms that might tell you about the onset of cancer!

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  1. Ritu Parkar January 21, 2016
  2. Ritu Parkar March 10, 2016

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