If cancer goes undetected and untreated, it can become a silent killer. The longer the disease is left to progress, the higher the chances of deadly complications become.
Treatments have advanced rapidly in recent years, improving quality of life and survivability of sufferers. Of course, early detection is key, so it’s important to keep track of your health and remain vigilant for warning signs and symptoms.
The following aren’t guaranteed signs that cancer has developed, but they do indicate elevated risk, and none should be ignored. If you notice any of the following symptoms in yourself or someone close to you, it’s important to consult with a physician as early as possible.
Sudden and Unexplained Weight Loss
If you’ve ever been overweight, you will know that it’s often a struggle to shed the pounds. Sudden and unexplained weight loss might seem like a blessing, but it could indicate changes in your body related to a disease like cancer, or even diabetes.
Sudden weight loss is one of the earliest warning signs that cancer has developed, and you should never let this obvious body change go ignored. Colon cancer is a common factor in unexplained weight loss, due to the changes it creates in your digestive system.
If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight without changing eating or exercise habits, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Numb Hands and Feet
Numbness, a loss of sensation, and tingling in your extremities could be an early cancer warning sign. Tumors that develop in the brain and spine can manifest early as numbness in your hands and fingers. Even if you only notice the problem occasionally, it’s still important that you present your symptoms to your doctor.
Even if cancer is not the issue here, numbness could be related to several serious health conditions. Diabetes, venous insufficiency, nerve damage, and even occupational overuse syndrome are some of the possible explanations.
Excessive Sweating When Waking in the Night
Night sweats aren’t just uncomfortable, they can also induce anxiety as thoughts of your health rush through your mind. A single episode of night sweats might not indicate a serious health problem, but repeated episodes could indicate lymphoma. If you’ve experienced night sweats more than once in the last month, you’ll need to call your doctor and schedule a consultation.
Other potential causes for night sweats include anxiety, an overactive thyroid gland, or even menopause and other hormonal changes. No matter the underlying reason, this is a serious health symptom that should not go ignored.
Everybody feels tired occasionally. Stressful modern lifestyles, pressure at work, and even parenting can all lead to fatigue.
However, there’s a deeper condition of fatigue where it can feel almost impossible to get out of bed. You might find yourself sleeping more, and even feeling tired after getting rest.
Thyroid cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma can all cause fatigue in the initial stages. However, every type of cancer can cause you to feel constantly exhausted when they reach advanced stages.
You’ll need to be well in tune with your body to spot this symptom and know when to seek medical advice. Be honest with yourself and identify anything in your lifestyle that could be causing fatigue. If it can’t be explained, or if the fatigue is prolonged and doesn’t improve with rest, then a medical opinion will be needed.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
It’s common for people to think of cancer as a large tumor that will be easy to see externally or feel inside your body. However, sometimes the swelling occurs only around your lymph nodes.
Lymph nodes are found throughout the body, but the largest groups are found under your arms, in your chest and abdomen, groin, and in your neck below the ears and around the jaw. Swelling of the lymph nodes in your neck will indicate that your body is fighting some form of infection or disease. This could be a symptom of cancer.
If you notice any swelling, stiffness, and pain, be sure to talk to a medical professional as soon as possible. Even if cancer is not the diagnosis, you will have some form of infection that needs to be addressed.
Bloating Around the Abdomen
Everyone deals with some bloating at some point. It could be related to hormonal changes, an increase of sodium in the diet, alcohol consumption, or even indigestion from certain foods. While bloating is a relatively normal physiological process at times, it should not be ignored when it is persistent and painful.
Excessive and prolonged bloating could indicate cancers of the stomach and colon. Pancreatic cancer and even some reproductive cancers could also be the cause. As with all cancer symptoms, you can’t make a diagnosis on your own. Only your physician or a referred specialist will be able to perform the checks and run the tests that tell you exactly what’s happening in your body.
Pain or Discomfort Below Your Ribs
Pain below your right rib is a strong sign that you may have developed cancer in your liver. The will be dull and persistent rather than sharp and intermittent. If you can feel dull pain in your ribs rather than below them, this could indicate bone cancer.
Either way, any pain in or below your ribs should be taken seriously. Other conditions like cirrhosis or hepatitis can also cause inflammation in the liver, and medical attention and a treatment plan will be necessary.
General Bone Pain
Your ribs aren’t the only bones that could indicate the presence of cancer in your body. Any kind of bone pain could be serious, especially if the onset is sudden and unexplained. Pain around joints and in bones is one of the most common signs of bone cancer. If you haven’t changed your exercise patterns or suffered an injury, then you should talk to your doctor for a complete examination and to have any necessary tests performed.
Don’t confuse bone pain for inflammation or fatigue in the muscles around them. Bone pain related to cancer usually starts at night time or whenever you are active. After time, it will progress to be felt throughout each day. Unlike muscle pain, bone pain is deeper, achy, and dull.
Other explanations outside of cancer include arthritis and osteoporosis. In any case, getting to the root of the problem is the best way to protect and prolong your good health.
Changes in Skin Color and Complexion
It’s natural to want a healthy glow to your skin, but what if you have quite literally taken on a yellow hue? This condition, known as jaundice, is a serious symptom of many diseases, including cancer. It’s a sure sign that something’s not quite right in your body, and an immediate visit to your doctor should be arranged. Liver cancer causes jaundice, as do other cancers that affect the liver. Jaundice may also be caused by an infection, hepatitis, and long term liver damage cause by alcoholism or substance abuse.
Hands that have become gray or blue could indicate lung cancer. This discoloration is caused by a decrease of blood oxygen levels.
A Cough That Won’t Go Away
Coughing could be caused by seasonal changes and irritation from pollen, the common cold, flu, and everyday allergies. However, if you know your body, you will know when a cough is out of the ordinary. A persistent cough could indicate lung cancer or even thyroid cancer. A serious cough can’t be treated with lozenges or over the counter formulas.
Any form of persistent cough should be referred to your doctor so that a complete examination can be made.
Know the Cancer Warning Signs and Communicate with Your Physician
Many cancers are treatable, and an increasing number are even curable with modern medicine. Learn what to look for and don’t ignore the warning signs. Only your doctor can diagnose cancer, but it’s your responsibility to look out for changes in your body that could indicate risk. Every symptom listed should be taken as a warning sign. Your doctor will be able to provide support and perform the right tests to identify the root cause of any symptom.
A healthy and varied diet, regular exercise, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco could greatly reduce your risk of developing cancer at any stage in life.