There are some symptoms that we all – hopefully – know could indicate cancer: excessive tiredness and fatigue, the development of strange lumps on the breast or elsewhere on the body. However, not every cancer symptom is obvious. Some are seemingly minor signs that you might chalk up to another, less serious cause. Others might be so mild that you don’t notice them at all.
Knowing these symptoms and getting help for them immediately could result in early cancer detection that saves your life. Don’t ignore these seven signs of cancer – see a doctor as soon as possible to find out if cancer could be causing them.
Unusual Cancer Symptoms
1. Persistent Cough
Sometimes you get over the rest of the cold but can’t seem to shake that nasty cough. This could very well be the case, but your cough could also be a cancer symptom.
Unfortunately, an ongoing, ever-present cough could indicate cancer of the lungs, larynx, thyroid, or lymphoma or leukemia – especially if you’re coughing up blood. If your cough hangs around for longer than a few weeks and doesn’t seem to improve with antibiotics or other medical interventions, your doctor may order diagnostic imaging of your chest to rule out cancer.
2. Mysterious Pain
Sometimes you know how you hurt yourself. Maybe you overdid it at the gym, leaving your muscles sore, or you walked into something in a moment of clumsiness that left you with a painful bruise. If you don’t know where this pain is coming from – or if you think you know, but it doesn’t seem to get better – then it’s time to see a doctor about your pain. Same goes for a bruise, sore, lump, or any swelling that doesn’t improve.
Frequent headaches could indicate a brain tumor. Back pain could suggest breast, liver, or lung cancer. Chest pain could indicate lung cancer or leukemia. Stomach pain could be a sign of pancreatic cancer. Bruising could result from leukemia. Sores and even itchy patches of skin that last for weeks could be signs of skin cancer.
3. Sudden Weight Loss
Most of us associate losing weight with getting healthier, but if you’re dropping pounds rapidly without radically changing your diet or level of physical activity, your weight loss could be a sign that something is seriously wrong. That something could be cancer of the stomach, esophagus, pancreas, lungs, colon, or liver.
If you suddenly and unexpectedly gain weight, this, too, could be a symptom of cancer. Abdominal weight gain, bloating, and loss of appetite are common signs of ovarian cancer in women – but because cancer isn’t a cause of weight gain that immediately comes to mind for most people, this symptom often goes ignored.
4. Changes in Bladder and Bowel Habits
5. Persistent Heartburn
Many of us suffer heartburn at one time or another, whether due to stress or overeating, but persistent heartburn could be a symptom of a more serious problem.
If you consistently experience acid reflux that lasts for a couple of weeks and changing your diet doesn’t seem to make a difference, it’s time to see a doctor. Persistent heartburn could be a symptom of stomach, throat, or ovarian cancer.
If you have a fever that doesn’t go away, it could be more than a raised temperature in response to a cold. Some cancers and tumor types are well-known causes of fever.
Leukemia and other cancers of the blood can harm your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off infections. Sometimes flu-like symptoms accompany this fever, which can make you even more likely to ignore the sign because you attribute it to a noncancerous cause. If these symptoms linger or get worse instead of better, it could be a clue that you’re not just suffering from a cold.
7. Change in Appearance of Fingernails
You probably associate cancer with changes in your skin, but what about changes in your fingernails, like “clubbing”?
Blue, brown, or black lines and dots under your nails could suggest skin cancer – possibly a deadly form. A change in the shape of your nail known as “clubbing” might indicate lung cancer. If your nails look pale or white, you might have liver cancer.
Don’t Wait to Seek Help for These Symptoms
Recognizing symptoms early on is one of the best ways you can control cancer. All of these weird symptoms have one thing in common: they’re all a departure from what’s typical of your body. By being familiar with your body and paying attention to changes – even seemingly small ones – you’re more likely to notice problematic symptoms in time for existing cancer treatments to work as effectively as possible.