The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 1.5 million new cancer cases in 2015. While this is a high number, medical experts across the board agree that early detection is crucial to successfully fighting the disease.
There are some symptoms one should never ignore, and paying attention to these changes in the body is such an important part of detecting serious medical issues like cancer. I know my own body best, so when I saw this list of common cancer symptoms that can help with early detection, I knew I’d be watching out for them.
Dr. Beth Y. Karlan of Cedars-Sinai’s Cancer Institute says that if you have symptoms that are “persistent and progressive, meaning you wake up every morning and feel something and it has you worried — even for two weeks in a row — it really is worth calling your physician and having it checked out.”
Like a lot of people, I incorrectly thought that breast cancer symptoms only affected women and I didn’t have to worry about them. I was also wrong in thinking that symptoms associated with colon cancer only affected men. But I was very surprised to see how many symptoms affected both men and women, just like in the case of a heart attack. I’m so glad I know what to look for now!
Scroll through to see which symptoms should be a red flag for women, men, or for both women and men. While these symptoms don’t always mean cancer is the problem, they are a sign that you should see a doctor right away.
1. Bloating in Women
2. Irregular Bleeding or Discharge in Women
3. Pelvic or Abdominal Pain in Women
Pelvic or abdominal pain can be an indication of something serious, such as ovarian cancer.
This pain, when accompanied by bloating, trouble eating, or urinary problems, necessitates a trip to the doctor.
The American Cancer Society writes, “These symptoms are also commonly cause by benign (non-cancerous diseases) and cancers of other organs. When they are caused by ovarian cancer, they tend to be persistent and represent a change from normal.”
4. Persistent Back Pain in Men
5. Changes in the Testicles in Men
6. Pain in the Groin, Hips, or Thighs in Men
In addition to back pain, prostate cancer can show itself by causing pain in the groin, hips, or thighs, and a trip to the doctor is definitely needed.
While prostate cancer can cause discomfort in these areas, testicular cancer can also cause groin pain with an aching feeling in the groin or testicles.
Any kind of chronic pain or swelling could definitely be an indication of something more serious.
7. Persistent Cough in Women and Men
8. Bowel Changes or Problems with Urination in Women and Men
9. Sudden Weight Loss in Women and Men
Sudden and unexplained weight loss can have many serious causes, several of which are types of cancer.
The American Cancer Society writes, “An unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more may be the first sign of cancer. This happens most often with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus, or lung.”
Stress or thyroid problems could also be the cause of such weight loss, but it is important that a doctor runs blood tests right away to be sure.
10. Breast Area Changes in Women and Men
11. Swollen Lymph Nodes in Women and Men
12. Skin Changes in Women and Men
Changes in the skin are extremely important to pay attention to in an effort to spot skin cancer early on.
Anytime the size, shape, or color of a mole or spot on your skin starts to change, you should see a doctor right away. Dr. Marleen Meyers says that you absolutely do not want to wait when it comes to skin cancer.
Early detection is key, and a quick trip to the doctor can be the difference in catching it or not.
13. Mouth Changes in Women and Men
14. Significant Fatigue in Women and Men
Fatigue occurs when you are extremely tired and don’t feel better with rest. Frequent or severe fatigue can be an indication that something is very wrong, and you should definitely see a doctor.
The American Cancer Society writes, “It may be an important symptom as cancer grows. But it may happen early in some cancers, like leukemia.”
As with all of these symptoms, it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to significant bouts of fatigue.
Dr. Beth Y. Karlan says, “We don’t want to [cause] too much alarm. Cancer is treatable, often it’s curable, and clearly having a diagnosis earlier will allow you to have the most benefit possible from current health care advances and to live a life as prior to a diagnosis.”
Keeping these symptoms in mind, and seeing a doctor when you detect something wrong, can be extremely effective in the early detection of cancer.