The “C” word is definitely one which most of us would like nothing to do with.  Cancer is a very serious and threatening word, and as much as we are familiar with how this disease acts in people, we would rather not have to think about it – let alone deal with it – in any way, shape or form.  However, there are times when prudent and proactive vigilance can be helpful – and in fact, make the difference between life and death.  Recognizing signs and symptoms of cancer is one of the most beneficial things one can do for oneself.

Cancer is a group of diseases that can cause almost any sign or symptom.  The signs and symptoms will depend on where the cancer is, how big it is, and how much it affects the organs or tissues.  If a cancer has spread (metastasized), signs or symptoms may appear in different parts of the body.  As a cancer grows, it can begin to push on nearby organs, blood vessels, and nerves.  This pressure causes some of the signs and symptoms of cancer. If the cancer is in a critical area, such as certain parts of the brain, even the smallest tumor can cause symptoms.

Per the Prevention article reference, in a survey of 1,729 adults over the age of 50 in the U.K published in PLOS ONE, respondents evaluated how serious they perceived a list of 17 ailments – 10 of which were actually indicators of cancer.  They also indicated whether they’d experienced any of these symptoms recently and if so, how they actually handled it.
Turns out, many people aren’t paying as much attention to warning signs as they could be, says study author Katriina Whitaker, a senior research fellow from University College London.

“Some people don’t think they [the symptoms] are serious, and cancer does not leap to mind.”

You should know some of the general signs and symptoms of cancer.  But remember, having any of these does not mean that you have cancer – many other things cause these signs and symptoms, too.  If you have any of these symptoms and they last for a long time or get worse, please check with a doctor immediately to find out what is going on.

» 10 symptoms of Cancer

  1. Lump or bumps » It’s best to have any strange lumps checked out by a doctor.  In the survey, 7.5% of people reported an unexplained lump.  While 67% did contact their doctors, 77% didn’t think it could be a sign of something more serious.
  2. Cough/hoarseness » It’s cold and flu season, so coughing can feel like a given.  However, if your cough persists, though, it could indicate laryngeal, lung or thyroid cancer, or lymphoma.
  3. Change in bowel habits » In Whitaker’s study, 18% of people experienced changes in the timing, amount, or size of their bowels. While these disruptions are usually caused by certain foods or medication, if you notice it happens regularly over time it could also be a sign of colon cancer.
  4. Variation in bladder activity » Because urinary tract infections are common in women, this symptom is often disregarded as just another UTI.  But whether you’re male or female, if you notice blood in your urine, experience sudden urgency or feel pain while going, definitely bring it up with your doctor to rule out cancers of the bladder, kidney or prostate.
  5. Unexplained pain » Persistent pain is your body’s way of signaling a problem, and that could be anything from nothing – to bone cancer or ovarian cancer.  The American Cancer Society says that pain from cancer typically means it has spread – a good reason not to be a stoic and to make an appointment with your physician.  One striking finding from Whitaker’s survey: only about 40% of people in the study were even concerned that pain could be a serious issue.
  6. A long-lasting sore throat » A sore throat may be just another winter wow, but a persistent one could point to something more severe, such as laryngeal cancer or throat cancer. Of those surveyed, nearly 78% didn’t think throat woes were serious.
  7. Unexplained weight loss » The American Cancer Society reports that unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more could be a first sign of cancer.  This warning sign is common in those with pancreatic, stomach, lung, or esophageal cancers.
  8. Difficulty swallowing » Throat constriction—while an uncommon symptom in this survey—could be a nervous or immune system issue, or a harbinger conditions including cancer in the esophagus, stomach or throat.
  9. Bleeding » Coughing up blood can signal lung cancer; blood in the stool could be a sign of colon or rectal cancer.  Women who experience unexplained vaginal bleeding should be checked for cervical or endometrial cancer.  A bloody discharge from the nipple can signal breast cancer, while blood in the urine can mean you have bladder or kidney cancers.  Unusual bleeding can occur during any phase of cancer, and warrants a visit to your doctor.
  10. Changes in skin moles » Of the 7% of respondents that reported a change in a mole, freckle or wart’s appearance, only 47% contacted their doctors.  What’s more troubling, however: more than 88% didn’t think the symptom was serious, though it could be indicative of skin cancer—many of which are treatable.

» References

  • http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/ignored-cancer-symptoms
  • http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/signs-and-symptoms-of-cancer