Cancer Symptoms

The Most Commonly Ignored Cancer Symptoms in Women and Men

Many benign conditions can cause nuisances, such as abdominal bloating, chronic headaches, or persistent fatigue. But they can also indicate something more serious, such as cancer symptoms. Many types of cancer are highly treatable if you catch them early. This is why you should never ignore signs. 

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Those diagnosed early are more likely to survive, have better experiences with care, have lower treatment morbidity, and improved quality of life compared with those diagnosed in later stages.

Read on to learn more about the most ignored cancer symptoms.


Pelvic Pain

A tumor or growth on your uterus or ovaries can compress nearby organs, including the bladder and rectum, causing pressure or pain in your pelvic area, abdomen, or back. Pelvic pain is not unusual during your period, but persistent pelvic pain outside your cycle can be a symptom of cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer.  


Changes in Bathroom Habits

Persistent constipation or diarrhea; black or red blood in your stool; black, tarry stool; more frequent urination and blood in your urine can all be symptoms of colon, prostate, or bladder cancer.  


Abdominal Bloating 

Stomach bloating is extremely common. Between 10% and 25% of healthy people complain of this nuisance. Abdominal bloating can be caused by excess gas, consuming too much salt, or hormonal changes. But feeling bloated for over two weeks may indicate ovarian or gastrointestinal cancer.  


Chronic Cough 

Lung cancer can cause tumors in your airways or fluid buildup between your lungs and chest, which can cause shortness of breath or a chronic cough. See your doctor if you have a cough that lasts more than two weeks, especially a dry cough.  


Persistent Headache

Growing brain tumors can press on healthy cells and cause brain swelling and increased pressure resulting in headaches. Don’t ignore a headache that lasts more than two weeks and doesn’t respond to the usual pain medication.


Breast Changes

When detected in the localized stage, the five-year relative survival rate for breast cancer is 99%. Look for changes such as a new lump under your arm or your breast, thickening or swelling, redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or on your breast, discoloring, or dimpling. While most cases of breast cancer occur in women, a small percentage of men get it.  


Difficult Swallowing

If you experience indigestion, difficulty swallowing, or the sensation of food being stuck in your throat for more than two weeks, it may indicate the presence of throat, lung, esophageal, or stomach cancer.


Fever with No Infection

Cancer spreading to other parts of your body can cause a fever. A fever that is mostly at night or includes night sweats with no sign of an infection can be a warning sign of cancer. 


Unusual Bruising 

Bruising in unusual places, such as on your back or hands, excessive bruises that occur without damage to that part of your body, or those that don’t go away, can be signs of blood cancer.  


Changes in Your Mouth 

Sores, lesions, or painful areas in your mouth that won’t go away can be symptoms of oral cancer, especially if you smoke, chew, dip, or spit tobacco. White patches inside your mouth or on your tongue or numbness around your mouth can be precancerous.


Skin Changes

A change in the appearance of a mole or birthmark can be a sign of basal-cell carcinoma or melanoma. The mnemonic ABCDE can help determine if there’s cause for concern: 

  • Asymmetry  – One half of the mole doesn’t match the other
  • Border – An uneven border
  • Color – More than one shade or color   
  • Diameter – Larger than the size of a pencil eraser 
  • Evolving – Change in size, shape, color, or anything else


Persistent Pain with No Apparent Cause

Persistent pain anywhere in your body, such as a nagging back or stomach pain, with no apparent cause, can be an early sign that something is wrong. 


Lasting Fatigue

Cancer can cause your body to produce fewer red blood cells, resulting in anemia, which causes fatigue. Any lasting change to your energy level can be a sign of lymphoma. 


Postmenopausal Bleeding 

While there are many possible reasons for postmenopausal bleeding, it can be a sign of cervical or uterine cancer. If you have persistent postmenopausal bleeding, see your doctor. 


Testicular Changes 

Warning signs of testicular cancer can include a lump in your testicles, a change in the size of your testicles, swelling, or a feeling of heaviness in your testicles.  


Stomach Pain or Nausea

Constant pain or pressure in your abdomen or lasting nausea can be early signs of pancreatic, liver, or other digestive system cancers.  


Unexplained Weight Loss

For many people, losing a few pounds is a welcome development. But if you lose ten or more pounds when you’re not trying or haven’t lost your appetite, you should consult your physician.  


Key Takeaways

Cancer is frightening. But don’t let fear of a diagnosis keep you from seeing your doctor. Many successful treatment options are available, and the earlier the cancer symptoms are detected, the more effective the treatment will be. Don’t forget to take your annual exams to be proactive about prevention! If you are looking for a doctor in San Diego or have more health-related questions, visit our doctor directory or browse our resources.

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