Recognizing the early warning signs
of cancer can help to ensure an early diagnosis. This
makes it potentially easier to treat cancer before it
has metastasized (spread to other areas of the body).
Cancer that is detected early typically has not yet
had the opportunity to deplete the body of its disease-fighting
resources, and therefore cancer, regardless of what
category it belongs, is far more susceptible to treatment.
There are a number of general early warning signs, or
initial symptoms, of cancer. If you experience any one
of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention
so that you can be properly screened for cancer. The
most common general early symptoms of cancer are:
Other Telltale Warning Signs of Specific Types of Cancers
- Lumps of Thickening in Breast or Testicle Tissues
Since breast and testicular cancer have increasingly
shown signs of developing earlier, all men and women
above the age of 25 should regularly (at least once
a month) examine themselves for telltale signs of cancer
of the breasts and testicles. By gently yet firmly pressing
into the breasts, women are often able to detect lumps
or thickening breast tissue that can be a sign of breast
cancer. In a similar fashion, men can massage their
testicles, being on the lookout for any noticeable changes
in the way they feel.
- Changes in Warts or Moles
Warts or moles that begin
to change appearance can be a sign of various types
of skin cancer, such as melanoma or squamous carcinoma.
One indication that skin cancer might be developing
is bleeding that occurs in warts and moles. Changes
in wart and mole size is another common indicator. In
addition, the appearance of chronic pimples or patches
of dry, scaly skin are other warning signs, as is skin
that becomes inflamed or ulcerated. Sores that are slow
to heal are another indicator, as are chronic sores
in the mouth.
- Persistent Sore Throat.
A chronic sore throat
can be a potential indicator that cancer is developing
in an area of the throat (esophagus, larynx, or pharynx).
Other early warning signs of throat cancer include persistent
hoarseness, lumps in the throat, and difficulty swallowing.
- Changes in Bowel and Bladder Habits.
noticeable and persistent change in your bowel movements
or in the way you urinate can be an indication of cancer
in the genitourinary tract (bladder, prostate, and testicular
cancer) or in the gastrointestinal tract (colon or stomach
cancer). Such changes include unexplained constipation
or diarrhea, blood in the urine or stool, pain during
urination and elimination, difficulty urinating or passing
stool, abdominal pain, and stools that are dark and
- Coughing Blood/Persistent Coughing.
coughing and coughing up of blood can be signs of lung
cancer, as well as other types of cancer, especially
in people who smoke.
- Chronic Digestion Problems.
The following digestive
symptoms can all be indications of cancer: abdominal
pain, bloating of the stomach or abdomen, chronic heartburn
or indigestion, nausea, and loss of appetite. Chronic
flatulence is another potential early warning sign,
as is a persistent "growling" stomach.
- Unexplained Weight Loss.
Any sudden and unexplained
loss of weight should immediately be brought to the
attention of your doctor.
- Persistent Fatigue and Feelings of Exhaustion.
loss of energy or chronic fatigue can be signs that
cancer is present and beginning to spread.
- Abnormal Vaginal Discharges and/or Bleeding.
signs can be indications of cervical, ovarian, or vaginal
In addition to the general early warning
symptoms mentioned above, specific types of cancers
usually result in specific symptoms. What follows is
a list of some of the most common cancer and the symptoms
that most commonly accompany them:
- Bladder Cancer Symptoms: blood in the urine,
rust-colored urine, pain and/or burning sensations during
urination, frequent need to urinate, difficulty urinating,
- Bone Cancer (Sarcoma) Symptoms: unexplained weakness
in areas of the musculo-skeletal system, unexplained
pains in and around areas of the bones, increased susceptibility
- Breast Cancer Symptoms: lumps in the breast and/or
thickening breast tissue, nipple discharge, retraction
of the nipple, dimpling of breast tissue, reddened breast
skin tissue, swollen breasts, sensation of heat in the
breasts, swelling in the lymph nodes beneath the armpits.
- Colon and Rectal Cancer Symptoms: blood in the
stools, bleeding from the rectum, dark and tarry stools,
abdominal pains and cramping, unexplained constipation
or diarrhea, alternating constipation and diarrhea,
unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, unexplained
fatigue, poor skin pallor.
- Kidney Cancer Symptoms: Blood in the urine, dull
aches or pains in the lower back or on the sides of
the abdomen, lumps or swelling in the kidney area of
the abdomen or lower back, unexplained elevations in
blood pressure levels, unexplained abnormalities in
red blood cell count.
- Leukemia Symptoms: Unexplained weakness or fatigue,
pale skin, unexplained fever, flu-like symptoms, prolonged
bleeding, unexplained bruising, enlarged lymph nodes,
swollen spleen and/or liver, frequent infections, unexplained
bone or joint pain, unexplained weight loss, night sweats.
- Lung Cancer Symptoms: persistent coughing or
wheezing, persistent chest pain, persistent lung congestion,
swollen lymph nodes in the neck, blood produced upon
- Melanoma (Skin Cancer) Symptoms: changes in skin
tone and texture; changes in the size, shape, and/or
color of moles; unexplained bleeding from the skin.
- Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Symptoms: Swelling (without
pain) of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and/or
groin; persistent fever; persistent fatigue; unexplained
weight loss; unexplained skin rashes and/or itching;
small lumps in the skin; bone pain; swelling in the
liver, spleen, and/or areas of the abdomen.
- Oral (Lip, Mouth, or Throat) Cancer Symptoms:
Lumps or sore spots in the mouth, pain while eating
or drinking, persistent ulcers on the lip, tongue or
inside the mouth, difficulty swallowing, oral pain,
loosening teeth, bleeding in the mouth, blood produced
by coughing, persistent bad breath.
- Ovarian Cancer Symptoms: Abdominal swelling,
unexplained vaginal bleeding or discharge, persistent
and unexplained digestive problems.
- Pancreatic Cancer (Cancer of the Pancreas) Symptoms:
Persistent pain in the upper abdomen, unexplained weight
loss, persistent pain in the mid-back and center of
the back, loss of appetite, sudden inability to properly
digest/tolerate fatty foods, yellow skin tone (jaundice),
abdominal swelling, swelling of the liver and spleen.
- Prostate Cancer Symptoms: Difficulty urinating,
pain or burning sensations upon urination, frequent
need to urinate, incomplete urination, blood in the
urine, pain in the area of the bladder, dull, persistent
aching in the area of the pelvis and lower back.
- Uterine Cancer (Cancer of the Uterus) Symptoms:
(Approximately 70 to 75 percent of all cases of uterine
cancer occur after menopause.) Vaginal bleeding or discharge
after menopause, painful urination, collection of fluids
in the uterus, pain during intercourse, persistent pains
in the area of the pelvis.
Relying of self-care screening
methods alone is not enough to detect cancer. People
40 years and older, as well as anyone in which cancer
is common in their family, should consider receiving
professional cancer screening tests on an annual basis.
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