With the increased awareness of breast cancer, examining your breasts on a daily basis must have become a habit. However, there are several other forms of cancer that show common and subtle signs which may be often ignored.
Whether it is stomach ache or a cough, it is not meant to stay for long. And if it does, it certainly calls for a doctor’s appointment. Here are some common symptoms of cancer that may seem harmless but require medical attention.
It is normal to feel bloated temporarily after eating a lot, drinking, or during periods. However, if the puffy feeling in your stomach doesn’t go away in a few weeks, consult your doctor.
Bloating is a common sign of ovarian cancer.1 In addition to this, you may experience a loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and frequent urination.
2. Spotting Between Periods Or Abnormal Periods
Although spotting between periods isn’t always due to cancer, it cannot be ruled out completely. Heavy bleeding or spotting and bleeding between periods is often a sign of endometrial cancer, cervical cancer or uterine cancer.2 3 Additionally, it is not normal for a woman to bleed after menopause and could be an early sign of endometrial cancer.4
3. Smelly Vaginal Discharge
Vaginal discharge is not a cause for concern unless it is foul smelling, pale, watery, or brown, which could be a symptom of cervical cancer.5 This discharge can occur between periods or after menopause. Sometimes, vaginal discharge can have blood in it and is mistaken for spotting.
Sometimes, you may experience tiredness due to a physical activity or lack of rest that goes away in a day or two. However, if you feel fatigued even after getting enough rest, it could be a sign of leukemia, stomach cancer or colon cancer.
In the case of leukemia, there is an abnormal growth of white blood cells which slowly outnumber the red blood cells in your body. This results in a condition called anemia, the deficiency of red blood cells that is responsible for fatigue.6 Similarly, colon and stomach cancer is often caused blood loss through stools. This results in anemia which in turn causes fatigue.
5. Unexplained Weight Loss
There is nothing more you could ask for than to lose weight without exercising or following a diet. But what if this weight loss could be due to a serious health problem? Unexplained weight loss of about 4–5 kg may be a sign of cancer in the pancreas, stomach, lung, or esophagus.7 As cancer cells multiply, they use up your energy, which explains the weight loss.
6. Breast Changes
You may observe changes in your breasts during your period, pregnancy, as your approach menopause or after menopause. Even though changes in breasts aren’t always due to cancer, it is important to get yourself checked if you observe any changes. Check with your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.8
- A lump on the breast
- A change in shape or size
- Red, firm, itchy, or puckered skin
- Discharge from nipple
- Pain in the breast or underarm
7. Unexplained Fever Or Infections
Unexplained and frequent fever or infections could be due to leukemia or lymphoma. Both these diseases have a negative effect on your immune system and can make you susceptible to illness.9
8. A Persistent Cough
Irrespective of whether you are a smoker or not, if your cough persists for more than 2 weeks, you must consult your doctor. A persistent and chronic cough is often a sign of lung cancer or leukemia.10 Sometimes this cough may be accompanied by blood, which could be caused due to bronchitis or a chest infection.
9. Blood In Stool
Although the symptoms of colorectal cancer are not seen at first, when they do, one may experience stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, or blood in stools.
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. It starts as a polyp, which is a growth on the inner lining of the colon. All polyps don’t grow into cancer.11
10. Skin Changes
A change in size, color, or shape of a mole, skin pigmentation, excessive bruising, or scaly skin are symptoms of skin cancer like melanoma. It mostly affects the areas that are exposed to the skin, making it easy to detect any change.12 Long-term exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiations from the sun can cause skin cancer. Regular examination of the changes in your skin is critical for early detection.
11. Difficulty Swallowing
Difficulty swallowing may be a symptom of esophageal cancer. The cancer can narrow the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow. Some people may feel like they are choking or the food is stuck in their throat. Often, people start eating softer food to make it easier to swallow food. However, if the cancer grows too much, there may be a point where swallowing liquids also become difficult.13
Early detection of any form of cancer could increase the chances of successful treatment. So, keep an eye for any changes you observe and get it checked at the earliest
|↑1||Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. American Cancer Society.|
|↑2||Low, Emma L., Alice E. Simon, Jane Lyons, Debbie Romney-Alexander, and Jo Waller. “What do British women know about cervical cancer symptoms and risk factors?.” European Journal of Cancer 48, no. 16 (2012): 3001-3008.|
|↑3||Signs and Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer. American Cancer Society.|
|↑4||Newell, Sarah, and Caroline Overton. “Postmenopausal bleeding should be referred urgently.” The Practitioner 256, no. 1749 (2012): 13-16.|
|↑5||Cervical cancer. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑6||Leukemia. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
Signs and Symptoms of Cancer. American Cancer Society.
|↑8||Breast Changes and Conditions. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑9||Cunha, Burke A., Sowjanya Mohan, and Subha Parchuri. “Fever of unknown origin: Chronic lymphatic leukemia versus lymphoma (Richter’s transformation).” Heart & Lung: The Journal of Acute and Critical Care 34, no. 6 (2005): 437-441.|
|↑10||Kvale, Paul A. “Chronic cough due to lung tumors: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.” Chest 129, no. 1 (2006): 147S-153S.|
|↑11||Colorectal Cancer—Patient Version. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑12||Check for signs of skin cancer. Cancer Council Australia.|
|↑13||Difficulty swallowing. Canadian Cancer Society.|