We tend to think of cancer as a single disease. A killer that strikes out of nowhere.
But the truth is it isn’t a single disease at all. It’s a bunch of different ones. And with that variety, comes a bunch of different symptoms. Some of which are so subtle or seemingly unrelated they’re overlooked.
Or worse, simply ignored.
Ladies, we often miss cancer red flags because we’re too busy worrying about, and caring for others to pay attention to your own health. And guys, it’s common for you to play the role of tough guy, ignoring “minor” issues like an unexplained cough or ache.
But missing or ignoring symptoms can be dangerous, or even deadly. After all, there’s no better judge of whether or not there’s something wrong with your body than you.
Regular visits to the doctor are great. Tests are helpful when they’re necessary too. But paying attention to your OWN body, and following your OWN gut instinct, may be the strongest weapon against cancer of all.
You can spot a subtle or often overlooked symptom long before a test confirms a problem. And that could mean catching a cancer early and getting ahead of it before it’s able to do lasting damage.
13 often overlooked cancer symptoms
You could probably fill a book with accounts of the unexpected cancer symptoms people suffered through before they finally got a diagnosis. They can be as unique and varied as we are.
But it turns out there are some common cancer symptoms which we can be on the lookout for. Following are 13 of the most often missed cancer symptoms you shouldn’t ignore…
1. Fatigue or weakness:
We all feel a bit tired from time to time. Maybe you stayed up too late reading that new novel. Or perhaps, like me recently, you decided to go to a concert in the middle of the week and simply didn’t get enough shuteye.
In those kinds of cases, it’s normal to feel a bit overtired for a short time.
But if there’s no clear reason for your fatigue, or if it drags on for a long time, it’s a red flag. And it shouldn’t be ignored.
Fatigue, or an unexplained feeling of weakness, is one of the most common symptoms reported by people no matter what cancer they have. But experts say it may be slightly more common among folks who end up having colon cancer, stomach cancer or leukemia.
If you find yourself feeling run down even after catching up on sleep it’s time to give your doctor a call for a checkup.
2. Nail or skin changes:
Have unexplained brown or black streaks or dots appeared under your fingernails? They could be connected to skin cancer.
And if your nails turn unusually pale, or even white, it could be sign of cancer in your liver. Enlarged fingertips with nails which begin to grown downward is often a red flag for lung cancer.
If you have a freckle, mole or wart that suddenly changes size, shape or color skin cancer or melanoma could be the trigger. Darkening, red tinged or yellowing skin and eyes are all associated with different cancers as well.
If you have any of these symptoms make an appointment to see your doctor.
3. Nagging cough or hoarseness:
If you have a cough that just won’t seem to quit, don’t ignore it. If it’s been hanging on for weeks on end it could be connected to lung cancer. A quick trip to the doctor can determine if it’s simply a cough and nothing to worry about or a real concern.
If you often find yourself hoarse or on the edge of losing your voice don’t just assume you’re talking too much or too loudly. If it’s a chronic problem, cancer is a possibility. Both thyroid cancer and cancer of the larynx can cause your voice to become gravelly or hoarse sounding. Check in with your doctor to be sure.
4. Bathroom changes:
Since everyone experiences occasional bathroom problems, it’s easy to overlook ones that could be cancer symptoms. And it doesn’t help that most of us would rather just not talk about this kind of thing. But you should always take sudden changes in urination or bowel habits seriously.
If you find yourself needing to urinate much more OR less often, it could be a sign of bladder or prostate cancer. Urine which takes on a pink color is a sign of bleeding, which is associated with bladder, kidney and prostate cancers.
If you’re struggling with diarrhea or constipation that just won’t go away, no matter what you try, you should ask your doctor about rectal and colon cancer. The same goes for noticeable changes in the size of your stool.
Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool (black and tarry bowel movements) are associated with colon cancer and should always be reported to your doctor.
5. Unexpected weight loss:
If you aren’t actively trying to lose weight but suddenly lose 10 or more pounds, it can be a symptom of certain types of cancers.
Unplanned weight loss often accompanies digestion related cancers including cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, stomach or colon. Cancers that have spread to your liver can trigger unexpected weight loss as well.
6. Sores that won’t heal:
Skin cancers can look like a sore that won’t scab over and heal. They often bleed easily as well. If you’ve had a sore that shows no signs of healing after two weeks check with your dermatologist or regular doctor.
A sore that won’t heal in the mouth could be a symptom of an oral cancer, especially if you chew tobacco or are a smoker.
7. Breast or nipple changes:
If your breast suddenly feels sore and is swollen and red, it could be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer.
Red or thickened skin on the breast could be a sign of breast cancer.
A nipple that suddenly changes shape flattening out, inverting or turning sideways… or one that has a discharge… could also be a sign of breast cancer as well.
8. Feeling overfull:
Women with ovarian cancer often report feeling too full or bloated even when they haven’t eaten.
If you have no appetite and feel overfull even when you skip meals check with your doctor.
9. Trouble swallowing (with or without indigestion):
Are you suddenly having trouble swallowing? Throat, esophageal, stomach, or lung cancers could be to blame.
Chronic indigestion may accompany this symptom.
10. Pain with no clear cause:
Unexplained pain in your legs, arms or other bones could be caused by bone cancer.
Pain in your back could be a sign of cancer of the colon, ovary or even breast. And for men, pain in the groin area could be from testicular cancer.
11. Trouble catching your breath or wheezing:
Lung cancer can cause shortness of breath, feeling winded or wheezing.
If a short walk to the mailbox makes you feel out of breath it’s a good idea to make an appointment to see the doctor
12. Unusual bleeding or bruising:
Dark tarry bowel movements indicate there’s blood in the stool and can be a sign of colon cancer. And blood in the urine is associated with bladder and kidney cancers.
Lung cancer can cause you to cough up blood. .
Bloody discharge from a nipple could mean breast cancer. And unusual vaginal bleeding may be linked to cervical or endometrial cancers.
Excessive bruising is often a sign of leukemia.
13. Frequent infections and fevers:
Some cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia can affect your immune system making it more difficult for your body to fight off infections.
If you’re catching every bug, cold and flu you come across it could be a cancer red flag.
“I’ve got some of these “cancer symptoms,” now what?!?!”
If one of more of these cancer symptoms sounds familiar, don’t panic. They can be useful tools for catching cancer in the early stages. But having one or more of them doesn’t mean you have the disease.
Sometimes a persistent cough is nothing more than a case of easily treated bronchitis. Or feeling fatigued could be a sign you’re not getting enough B vitamins.
If the symptom turns out to be nothing serious, you’ll have peace of mind. And if it is a cancer symptom, spotting it early means with the help of your doctor you can develop a plan for facing it sooner.
And you’ll have lots of options, ranging from the dynamic cancer fighting duo of quercetin and resveratrol to the powerful cancer killing punch of intravenous vitamin C.
Be sure to share this important information with those that you care about. It very well could save their life!