What are the warning signs of cancer?
Cancer often has no specific symptoms. Most symptoms of cancer can be explained by non-malignant causes as well.
Some cancers occur more frequently in certain age groups. If certain symptoms occur or persist, you should see your doctor immediately.
You should not ignore any warning symptoms that might point to cancer. If an early diagnosis can be made, the treatment can have better cure rates.
Broadly, the warning signs include the following:
1-Change in bowel or bladder habits
2-A sore that does not heal
3-Unusual bleeding or discharge
4-Lump in the breast or elsewhere
5-Nagging cough or hoarseness
6-Significant, unexplained weight loss
7-A mole or wart that changes in color, size, or feel or that bleeds8-Fatigue that is severe and persistent.
The symptoms might vary, depending on the site and the organ affected, and the stage of the disease.
In a few cancers, during early stages, there are no symptoms and these cancers are likely to cause symptoms only if the disease has spread.
Cancer can occur in any part of the body, here are the symptoms of the most common cancers.
Head & neck cancer commonly shows up with a sore/ulcer in the mouth that does not go away, a lump in the neck, pain or difficulty with chewing or swallowing, speech problems, trouble with breathing, painless white or red patches in the mouth, weight loss, ear pain or hearing loss.
Lung cancer patients usually have shortness of breath, cough that does not go away or gets worse, hoarseness, coughing up blood, chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing and coughing.
Symptoms of breast cancers are a lump in your breast or axilla, any change in the size or the shape of the breast, pulling in of the nipple, discharge from the nipple other than breast milk, redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast, dimpling or puckering, the orange peel-like appearance of the breast skin.
Symptoms of uterine and cervical cancers are post-menopausal bleeding per vaginum, blood spots or light bleeding between or following periods, menstrual bleeding that is longer and heavier than usual, bleeding after intercourse, douching, or a pelvic examination, increased vaginal discharge, pain during sexual intercourse, unexplained, and persistent pelvic and/or back pain.
Ovarian cancers may present with bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, and trouble with eating or feeling full quickly.
The symptoms of gastric cancer tend to be vague and nonspecific like poor appetite, discomfort or pain in the abdomen, feeling full after eating only a small meal, vomiting, with or without blood, swelling, or fluid build-up in the abdomen.
Oesophageal cancers present with pain and difficulty with swallowing, unexplained weight loss, and loss of appetite.
Change in bowel habits is usually seen in lower gastrointestinal malignancies of the colon and the rectum. The symptoms would depend on the size and location of the tumor. Occasionally, there can be continuous diarrhea, changes in stool consistency, blood in the stool, and abdominal discomfort.
Some people with cancer feel as if they need to have a bowel movement and still feel that way after they have had a bowel movement. If any such bowel complaints last more than a few days, they require evaluation.
Anal cancer presents with bleeding during passing stools, itching and pain around the anus, small lumps around the anus, a discharge of mucus from the anus, and loss of bowel control (bowel incontinence).
Symptoms associated with cancers of the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas include yellowing of the skin and eyes, fatigue or weakness, itching, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, fever, yellowish discoloration of the skin, and the sclera ( jaundice).
Change in urination and urinary symptoms including frequent urination, small amounts of urine, slow urine flow, dribbling of urine, etc can be caused by infections and by an enlarged prostate gland in men. These symptoms may also signal prostate cancer.
Cancer of the bladder and pelvic tumors can also cause irritation of the bladder and frequent urination.
Blood in the urine can be a sign of kidney cancer.
Common Symptoms of blood cancers are a fever unexplained by any other cause, fatigue, weakness, bone & joint pain, rashes, night sweats, weight loss, swelling of lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen, decrease in blood counts, and easy bleeding or bruising.
CNS tumors can have a variety of symptoms. For example, brain tumors are usually present with headaches associated with nausea or vomiting, seizures, vision changes, hearing changes, and personality or memory changes.
Symptoms that may be specific to the location of the tumor include pressure or headache near the tumor, loss of balance and difficulty with fine motor skills, difficulty swallowing, facial weakness or numbness, or double vision are symptoms of a tumor in the brain stem.
Spinal cord tumors may present with weakness of the limbs or paralysis to varying degrees and loss of bowel & bladder function.
It is to be noted it is not necessary that all symptoms would appear in all patients diagnosed with cancer. The presentation of cancer depends on various factors, as already mentioned.
It is always advisable to reach out to your doctor if you experience any such symptoms, to get a diagnosis and begin treatment.