Warning Signs of Breast Cancer
Cancer Early Warning Signs
Johns Hopkins Medicine
As cancer cells attack healthy ones, your body may respond by losing weight. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), many undiagnosed cancer patients unexpectedly lose 10 pounds or more. In fact, this may be the very first sign of cancer.
Unexplained weight loss can happen in other health conditions, such as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Still, the difference with cancer is that it can come on rather suddenly. It is most prominent in cancers of the:
Fever or Blood Loss
Fever is the body’s response to an infection or illness. People who have cancer will often have a fever as a symptom but it is usually a sign that the cancer has spread to a new area or that it is affecting the immune system. Fever is rarely an early sign of cancer but may be if a person has a blood cancer, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
Some cancers may also cause unusual bleeding. For instance, colon or rectal cancer might cause bloody stools, while blood in the urine may be a sign of prostate or bladder cancer. It’s important to report such symptoms or any unusual discharge to your doctor for analysis.
Blood loss may be more discreet in stomach cancer.
Pain and Tiredness
Unexplained fatigue may be another symptom of cancer, and is one of the most common signs. Tiredness that doesn’t seem to go away despite adequate sleep could be a sign of an underlying health problem — cancer is just one possibility. The ACS says that tiredness is most prominent in leukemia. Fatigue can also be related to blood loss from other cancers.
In some cases, cancer that has spread (metastasized) can cause pain. For example, back pain may be present in cancers of the:
Cough can occur for a number of reasons. It is your body’s natural way of getting rid of unwanted substances, and it can happen from colds, allergies, the flu, or even low humidity. When it comes to lung cancer, however, the cough can persist for a long time despite remedies. The cough may be frequent, and it can cause hoarseness. As the disease progresses, you may even cough up blood.
A persistent cough is also sometimes a symptom of thyroid cancer.
Skin changes are most often linked to skin cancer, where moles or warts change or enlarge. Certain skin changes may also indicate other forms of cancer. For instance, white spots in the mouth can indicate oral cancer. Lumps or bumps underneath the skin can be tumors, such as in breast cancer.
Cancer can cause other skin changes, such as:
- dark spots (hyperpigmentation)
- increased hair growth
- jaundice (yellow eyes and skin)
Cancers with No Warning Signs
While many cancers have symptoms, some forms are more discreet. Such is the case with pancreatic cancer, which may not show any signs until it has progressed to an advanced stage. A family history of the disease, as well as frequent pancreatic swelling (inflammation) may increase your risk. If this is the case, your doctor may recommend regular cancer screenings.
Some cases of lung cancer may also cause subtle symptoms outside of the well-known cough. Certain types may increase blood calcium levels, which may not be detected without lab work.
Despite the warning signs (or lack thereof), it is impossible to know how an individual might respond to a certain type of cancer. The symptoms vary.
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