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What are Some Cancer Warning Signs?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2017
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It’s difficult to describe cancer warning signs because certain types of cancer may have few symptoms initially. Various areas of the body affected by cancer will not have the same symptoms. Another problem with evaluating cancer warning signs is that many of these signs can indicate other medical conditions. Generally, a good rule to follow is that people should see a doctor if they note these signs. However, try not to be too worried about symptoms before visiting your physician.

The main cancer warning signs are usually broken down into lists. The American Cancer Society has an excellent list of seven symptoms that may indicate certain types of cancer. These are sores on the skin that resist healing, lumps in breast tissue or elsewhere in the body, bleeding or discharge from any area of the body that is unusual, significant changes in bladder or bowel behavior, coughing or hoarseness of the throat that doesn’t resolve, difficulty swallowing or chronic indigestion, and quick changes in warts or moles.

The list attempts to cover cancer warning signs of major systems in the body. It’s easy to see that these symptoms are potential indicators of other conditions. For instance, sores that don’t heal could suggest infection or changes in bladder behavior might be symptoms of kidney or bladder stones. While it is important to see a doctor when these symptoms exist, a single cancer warning sign does not mean a person has cancer.

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Doctors usually look for quite a few symptoms that indicate potential cancers. “Bladder changes” is a broad category and doctors may look to more specific signs that suggest certain cancers. Men who have reduced urinary output and difficulty using the bathroom may be symptomatic of prostate cancer. Other symptoms of prostate cancer include needing to urinate frequently, painful urination, and blood present in the urine or semen. Bladders changes could also be related to cancer of the bladder. Bloody urine and pain during urination are common to those with this cancer.

Recognizing potential cancer warning signs may be a great step in remaining healthy. Unfortunately, later diagnoses of cancer are challenging to treat and survivability of most cancers increases with early diagnosis. It’s important to realize that not having these symptoms cannot guarantee a person doesn’t have cancer. Certain forms of cancer may be present for a long time before they begin causing noticeable symptoms.

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Discuss this Article

anon271530
Post 8

@kentuckycat: The symptoms of prostate cancer are well known and available on any medical web site. The PSA test is one method used to point to possible cancer if it is elevated. Perhaps the best and easiest test is the digital test done by the doctor where he feels for a hard spot on the prostate itself. My prostate is enlarged and has been for years now (BPH = Benign Prostate Hyperplasia) but all my tests are okay.

Azuza
Post 7

I know that changes in bowel habits is one of the colon cancer warning signs. However, I've heard that a lot of people don't go to the doctor when they experience theses symptoms! Colon cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, but a lot of people (especially men, from what I've read) die from it because they wait too long to go to the doctor.

I understand that it could be embarrassing to see a doctor about something like that, but I think it's necessary. I would personally rather have a few extra doctors visits than die of colon cancer!

JaneAir
Post 6

@strawCake - What happened to your aunt is just another example of a woman saved by her annual pap smear. There aren't a lot of cervical cancer warning signs either, and most women find out about that from having an abnormal pap smear.

I keep seeing things lately about how women don't need a yearly pap smear anymore, and I personally think that's just a bunch of a baloney. I'm sure insurance companies are pushing that so they don't have to pay for the procedure! Meanwhile, pap smears save lives by helping diagnose cancer early!

strawCake
Post 5

Even though some types of cancer do have warning signs, there are a few different types that don't really have any symptoms. For example, my aunt had ovarian cancer, and she didn't really experience any of the normal ovarian cancer warning signs.

In fact, the only physical difference she noticed was that she was a little bit more bloated than usual. She only found out she had cancer when she went for her annual visit to the gynecologist and they found that everything wasn't looking normal.

If she hadn't gone for her annual, I shudder to think what might have happened.

Emilski
Post 4

@kentuckycat - There are a few pretty good warning signs of prostate cancer. Like you mentioned, difficulty using the bathroom would be almost assured. Any blood in your urine would also be a major red flag. Those same symptoms are also true of kidney stones, though, which is why you shouldn't get extremely upset too soon. I think prostate cancer is found so often just because the symptoms are readily visible. Someone with trouble urinating and blood in the stream would immediately know there was a problem compared to colon cancer where someone might not know about it for several years.

I think one of the things that really gets overlooked is breast cancer in men. True, breast cancer is

predominantly see by females, but there is no reason it can't happen to a man. It is just another one of those things that is easy to miss if you aren't thinking about it.

For all of these self tests, I think the most important part is to do them regularly enough that you know your body and can tell if there are any differences.

kentuckycat
Post 3

Does anyone know what some of the prostate cancer warning signs area? I know it is an issue that has gotten more attention in recent years, but even though it gets publicized a lot, I don't think they have done a good job putting people on the lookout for symptoms.

I would assume if you are having trouble urinating, that would be a main indicator, but what else? How would you tell the difference between an enlarged prostate and cancer?

With all the technology we have today, it is a shame that there are still people in the U.S. who can't have some of these regular procedures done just because they can't afford health insurance. I have personally known a couple of people who have put off doctor visits just because they were afraid of what the diagnosis might be, or that the diagnosis might make it even harder to get insurance in the future.

Izzy78
Post 2

@titans62 - I would say changes in moles and warts is most a skin cancer warning sign, but if the cancer is already well developed and spreading through the body, I could see where it might have an effect.

Like you mentioned, early detection has come a long way, but unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to check all the organs that could develop cancer. I know in a lot of cases, things like possible tumors are caught during routine doctor visits.

I went to the emergency room one time, because I was having chest pains. I got a few X-rays, and they were pretty sure it was a build up of calcium around my lungs, which apparently is

a normal occurrence in my area. Just to make sure, they suggested I get a CT scan, so I did.

During the scan, they confirmed the original diagnosis, but also found a possible lump on my thyroid. I went and got an ultrasound, and there was nothing there, but if there had been, I never would have noticed it otherwise.

titans62
Post 1

Where the article lists the 7 cancer warning signs, does that mean that someone who has cancer would likely have more than one of those, or is each symptoms specific to one or two specific kinds of cancer? For example, the list includes rapid changes in warts in moles. I would assume this is mainly listed as a symptoms of skin cancer or melanoma or something. Would someone who had lung cancer or something still have warts and moles that were misshapen?

It is too bad that scientists still haven't come up with a surefire way to get rid of cancerous cells, but I have seen a lot of developments just since I was younger. Before, it was very

difficult to detect cancer until it was too late. Now, not only can we find cancer very early, it can be treated more effectively. I think the media and publicity about cancer has a lot to do about that. Women were always told to check for lumps, men were told to get prostate exams, and everyone was told to get colonoscopies, but until they found good evidence linking those things to early detection of cancer did anyone really start to do them regularly.

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