15 Cancer Symptoms to Know
Changes in Your Skin
A new spot on your skin or one that changes size, shape, or color could be a sign of skin cancer. Another is a spot that doesn't look the same as all the others on your body. If you have any unusual marks, have your doctor check your skin. She will do an exam and may remove a small piece (called a biopsy) to take a closer look for cancer cells.
If you don't smoke, there's very little chance a nagging cough is a sign of cancer. Usually, it's caused by postnasal drip, asthma, acid reflux, or an infection. But if yours doesn't go away or you cough up blood -- especially if you are a smoker -- see your doctor. She may test mucus from your lungs or do a chest X-ray to check for lung cancer.
Most breast changes are not cancer. It's still important, though, to tell your doctor about them and have her check them out. Let her know about any lumps, nipple changes or discharge, redness or thickening, or pain in your breasts. She'll do an exam and may suggest a mammogram, MRI, or maybe a biopsy.
You may have a full, bloated feeling because of your diet or even stress. But if it doesn't get better or you also have fatigue, weight loss, or back pain, have it checked out. Constant bloating in women may be a sign of ovarian cancer. Your doctor can do a pelvic exam to look for the cause.
Problems When You Pee
Many men have urinary issues as they get older, like the need to go more often, leaks, or a weak stream. Usually, these are signs of an enlarged prostate, but they could also mean prostate cancer. See your doctor for an exam and maybe a special blood test called a PSA test.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
You have these small, bean-shaped glands in your neck, armpits, and other places in your body. When they're swollen, it often means you're fighting an infection like a cold or strep throat. Some cancers like lymphoma and leukemia can also cause this kind of swelling. Talk to your doctor to pinpoint the cause.
Blood When You Use the Bathroom
If you see blood in the toilet after you go, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor. Bloody stool is likely to come from swollen, inflamed veins called hemorrhoids, but there's a chance it could be colon cancer. Blood in your pee could be a problem like a urinary tract infection, but it may be kidney or bladder cancer.
If you notice a lump or swelling in your testicles, you need to see your doctor right away. A painless lump is the most common sign of testicular cancer. Sometimes though, a man may just have a heavy feeling in his lower belly or scrotum or think his testicles feel larger. Your doctor will do a physical exam of the area and may use an ultrasound scan to see if there is a tumor or another problem.
The common cold, acid reflux, or even some medicine can make it hard to swallow once in a while. If it doesn't get better with time or with antacids, see your doctor. Trouble swallowing can also be a sign of cancer in your throat or the pipe between your mouth and stomach, called the esophagus. Your doctor will do an exam and some tests like a barium X-ray, in which you swallow a chalky fluid to show your throat more clearly on the image.
Unusual Vaginal Bleeding
Bleeding that's not part of your usual period can have many causes, like fibroids or even some types of birth control. But tell your doctor if you're bleeding between periods, after sex, or have bloody discharge. She'll want to rule out cancer of the uterus, cervix, or vagina. Be sure to let her know if you are bleeding after menopause. That's not normal and should be checked out right away.
From bad breath to canker sores, most changes in your mouth aren't serious. But if you have white or red patches or sores in your mouth that don't heal after a couple of weeks -- especially if you smoke -- see your doctor. It may be a sign of oral cancer. Other things to look for: a lump in your cheek, trouble moving your jaw, or mouth pain.
Of course you can slim down when you change the way you eat or exercise. It can also happen if you have other issues, like stress or a thyroid problem. But it's not normal to lose 10 pounds or more without trying. There's a chance it could be a first sign of cancer of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus, or lung.
A fever isn't usually a bad thing. Sometimes it's just a sign that your body is fighting an infection. It can also be a side effect of some medicines. But one that won't go away and doesn't have an obvious cause could be a sign of a blood cancer like leukemia or lymphoma.
Heartburn or Indigestion
Almost everyone has this burning feeling sometimes, often because of their diet or stress. If lifestyle changes don't work and your indigestion doesn't stop, your doctor may want to do some tests to look for a cause. It could be a sign of stomach cancer.
A lot of things can make you very tired, and most of them aren't serious. But fatigue is one early sign of some cancers, like leukemia. Some colon and stomach cancers can cause blood loss that you can't see, which can make you feel very tired. If you're wiped out all the time and rest doesn't help, talk to your doctor.