10 Common Cancer Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

There are plenty of medical conditions that are worrisome. From chronic, lifelong illnesses to complicated health issues, your health can change and become a serious concern at any moment. And some conditions, like cancer, can affect people at any age. Cancer is a disease that absolutely everyone needs to be concerned about.

Not only is cancer often deadly, but it’s so common that it’s the number two cause of death in the U.S. – only heart disease claims more lives. If you’re concerned about cancer, it’s critical that you know the symptoms.

You need to be prepared for the possibility that you might develop cancer. And the best way to do this is to be aware of the general signs and symptoms that cancer brings. Knowing this information can potentially help you detect your cancer as early as possible, giving you a better chance at treating it.

Here are 10 of the most common signs of cancer.

1. Headaches

Headaches are incredibly common. You can get a headache from dehydration, from staring at your computer screen for too long, or even from stress. But sometimes, persistent or common headaches can be a sign that something much more serious is happening inside your body.

Some headaches can be a symptom of cancer. Commonly, headaches are symptoms of leukemia and lung cancer – or even a cancerous brain tumor. 

If you’re living with headaches that won’t go away, or more headaches than usual, it’s time to talk with your doctor.

2. Changes to Your Skin

You should always keep a close eye on your skin. Changes in your skin can be a sign of many different conditions – redness and itchiness could be psoriasis or eczema, or perhaps something even simpler like dehydration. But sometimes, even subtle changes to your skin’s texture or appearance can be a clue about cancer.

Rashes, skin dimpling or puckering, and redness or tenderness can all be symptoms of cancer. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can cause skin rashes, and breast cancer can cause redness. And skin cancer typically exhibits symptoms on your skin. Skin cancer can bring symptoms like sores, bumps, lesions, and changes to moles.

3. Fatigue

Being tired usually isn’t a big concern. After all, everyday life is exhausting. But if you’re noticing that you’re feeling more tired than usual, or you can’t shake the feeling that you’re tired, you might be experiencing fatigue.

And fatigue could be a sign of many different health concerns. Often, the reason you’re feeling so exhausted is because your body is working overtime to heal or fight off something. 

Most importantly, though, fatigue is a very common symptom of cancer. Many different types of cancer feature fatigue as a symptom, including leukemia, colon cancer, and stomach cancer.

4. Unusual Bleeding

Unusual bleeding is always concerning – you should contact your doctor any time you’re experiencing a surprising symptom like this. And while bleeding can sometimes be a harmless, one-time event, it could also be a much more serious symptom of a larger problem.

Bleeding is also a symptom of a number of different types of cancer. Where the unusual bleeding occurs is often a sign of where the cancer is likely located. For example, coughing up blood could be a symptom of lung cancer. Finding blood in your stool could signal colon cancer. Experiencing blood in your urine could be a sign of bladder or kidney. And even breast cancer and ovarian cancer can include unusual bleeding as a symptom.

5. Unexplained Weight Loss

You might think that losing weight without trying to do so is a great thing. Unfortunately, though, unexplained weight loss can be a serious concern. If you’re losing weight and can’t figure out why, it’s time to visit your doctor.

The American Cancer Society notes that unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more could be the first sign of cancer. It’s a common symptom of pancreatic, stomach, esophageal, and lung cancers. As cancer cells grow within the body, you can begin to lose weight rapidly or without realizing you’re sick.

6. A Cough That Won’t Go Away

A nagging, persistent cough is certainly annoying. And it’s also pretty common. A cough can linger after a bout of the common cold or flu. While a long-lasting cough that won’t go away can indicate potentially serious health issues like pneumonia, it could also be a symptom of cancer.

A persistent cough is commonly a sign of lung cancer. However, it can also be a sign of cancer of the larynx or the thyroid. It’s important to make sure you get your cough checked out if it lasts longer than usual, or if it simply won’t go away.

7. Bloating

Bloating is a very common phenomenon. You can experience bloating after eating a heavy meal, if you eat a lot of salt, or if your body goes through natural changes and shifts. Usually, bloating isn’t something to worry about – but if your bloating is lasting a bit longer than usual, it could be a hint of a serious health concern.

If you notice you’re bloating more often than usual or you’re experiencing bloating that doesn’t go away after a week or two, you might be experiencing a cancer symptom. Constant bloating is a sign of many different cancers, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and gastrointestinal cancer.

8. Pain in Different Areas of the Body

Aches and pains are completely natural, especially as you get older. Arthritis, chronic conditions of the immune system, and even something as simple as strenuous activity can cause you to feel pain in different areas of the body.

However, when that pain is centered in a particular area of the body and doesn’t get better over time, it’s time to visit your doctor. Pain that doesn’t stop with treatment or time can be a symptom of different cancers. Brain cancer, colon cancer, and ovarian cancer can all cause pain in certain areas of the body, like the head and back.

9. Lumps Under the Skin

If you notice a lump or bump underneath your skin anywhere on the body, there’s reason to be concerned. Unless that lump has been present for a while – and has already been checked out by a doctor – you may be feeling one of the physical signs of cancer.

Lumps are a common cancer identifier. In fact, they can be the first sign of cancer. For example, breast cancer is often noticed when a lump appears in the breast. Lumps in the testicles can be an indicator of testicular cancer. Even lymph nodes can become more pronounced or lump-like, which may be a sign of lymphoma.

10. Fever

Fevers are another very common health issue. They can accompany the common cold, the flu, and plenty of other viruses and illnesses. And typically, a fever isn’t anything to worry about unless it’s unusually high or long-lasting.

Although cancer doesn’t seem associated with body temperature, a fever is often a symptom. In some types of cancer, like leukemia and lymphoma, a fever can be the very first sign of the disease. As the American Cancer Society notes, fevers are such a common cancer symptom that nearly everyone who has cancer will have a fever at some point.

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