As we grow old, our immune system weakens and we are more vulnerable to diseases. This is one of the main reasons why diseases like cancer become more common as we age. And anyone can develop cancer. But how do we know if we have cancer in the first place? Most of us tend to ignore the early signs of cancer that our body gives away.
Hence, if you notice something different or unusual about your body at any given time, it is a good idea to see a doctor immediately. Here are a few early signs of cancer that can help you take the first step. These symptoms may or may not mean that you have cancer, but an early diagnosis can lead to successful treatment.
1. Fatigue And Weakness
Fatigue is an extremely general symptom of cancer. Feeling tired doesn’t mean that you have cancer – fatigue is related to a number of chronic diseases. However, with cancer growth, you will feel extreme fatigue. If you experience excessive tiredness even after a good night’s sleep or sufficient rest, consult your doctor immediately.
It’s not unusual to feel breathless every now and then. But if you notice that you’re being short of breath more than usual, consult your doctor. A study states that about 50–70 percent of all cancer patients exhibit this symptom at some point during their illness.1 While many types of cancers cause breathing difficulty, it is mainly associated with lung cancer.
3. Heartburn And Indigestion
Slight discomfort or pain after eating a large or fatty meal is fairly common. But if you are experiencing heartburn or indigestion continuously for days, then you should see your doctor promptly. Heartburn or indigestion can sometimes be a symptom of cancer. However, remember that these symptoms can also be due to other illness, viral infections, or ulcers.
You don’t have to worry about bloating that comes and goes. But if you feel bloated for more than 3 weeks, see your doctor. Stomach cancer and ovarian cancer are usually associated with vague symptoms like bloating and indigestion.
5. Croaky Voice
Having a hoarse voice can be common with a cold. But a raspy, weak voice that hasn’t gone away for weeks needs to be checked. Laryngeal cancer, a form of cancer that affects your vocal cords (glottis), often causes a change in the voice.2
6. Loose Stools
Loose stool and diarrhea are a common occurrence. But cancer patients can have continuous diarrhea. It is observed that 1 out of every 10 people suffering from cancer have diarrhea.3 If you have loose, watery stools and abdominal pain, seek medical attention.
7. Blood In Your Poop
Bladder cancer, bowel cancer, prostate cancer, and tumors are major factors that lead to bloody urine and stool. Hemorrhoids cause rectal bleeding, but they can also exist with cancer. Hence, if you have hemorrhoids, get your entire intestinal tract examined. You may also have anemia, a reduced number of red blood cells, as an indicator of bowel cancer.4
8. Urinary Changes
If you experience frequent urination, less and slow urine flow, or any change in your bladder function, consult your physician immediately. These changes may signal prostate cancer or bladder cancer.
Many people with bladder cancer may have blood in their urine and may not experience any pain. Sometimes, cancer of the bladder and pelvis can also cause irritation of the bladder and urinary tract.5
9. Sweating At Night
Sweating at night is usually linked to infections or as a side effect of certain medications. Women often experience sweating at night during menopause. So, although sweating at night isn’t a symptom that is exclusive to cancer, you need to look out for severe night sweats that can drench your clothes and sheets. This could be related to lymphoma.
10. Unexplained Weight Loss
Most cancer patients will lose weight for no known reason. If you experience an unexplained weight loss of more than 10 pounds, it could possibly be a sign of cancer. This happens mostly with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus, or lungs.
Vaginal bleeding between periods, after having sex, or post-menopause should be taken seriously. Uterus cancer can cause such abnormal uterine bleeding and this should be addressed by your doctor at the earliest.
12. Difficulty Swallowing
Consult your doctor as soon as possible if you develop difficulty swallowing and if it doesn’t go away for weeks. Esophageal cancer causes trouble while swallowing and you will feel like your food is stuck in the throat or chest.
13. Sores Or Ulcers That Don’t Heal
Human skin repairs itself quickly, sores and ulcers usually heal within 2 weeks. If you have an open sore or an ulcer that does not heal, bleeds easily, and causes oozing, get yourself checked as soon as possible.
14. Prolonged Pain
Cancer causes pain by destroying your healthy tissues. As cancer progresses, the growth applies pressure on your nerves, bones, and organs, which causes pain. If you have unexplained, ongoing pain for more than 4 weeks, seek medical help.
How To Reduce The Risk Of Cancer
For starters, it is absolutely important that you maintain healthy lifestyle choices at all times. From engaging in regular physical exercise to reducing your exposure to environmental toxins like pollutants and pesticides, you can help yourself in the long run.
Additionally, normalize your levels of Vitamin D, a popular cancer preventive, through controlled exposure to sunlight and supplements.
|↑1||About shortness of breath. Cancer Research U.K.|
|↑2||Signs and Symptoms of Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers. American Cancer Society.|
|↑3||Symptoms of diarrhoea. Cancer Research UK.|
|↑4||Rectal bleeding. National Health Services.|
|↑5||Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer. American Cancer Society.|