14.1 million people in the world suffered from cancer in 2012, a number that is expected to go up to 24 million by 2035. One of the world’s most fatal diseases, it has a higher chance of being cured if it’s caught early.
Here are some of the symptoms of cancer that you should watch out for. Report them to your doctor if they persist for two weeks or longer.
1. A persistent cough.
A cough is a minor illness, but a cough that doesn’t go away could be an indication of something more serious, like lung cancer, throat cancer or thyroid cancer. People who smoke are especially at risk for these cancers, and should get any suspicious coughs checked out right away.
2. Sudden weight loss.
Weight loss can have many causes, including thyroid problems, but watch out for sudden, unexplained weight loss of more than 10 pounds (4.5 kilos), as it is one of the first symptoms of cancer. Such weight loss is especially common in the cases of stomach, lung, oesophagus and pancreatic cancers.
3. Changes in the chest area.
We tend to associate breast cancer with women, but men can get it too. It is important that both men and women check themselves regularly for any lumps, swelling or discharge in this area.
4. Changes in urine or stool patterns.
Everyone has problems in this department once in a while, but frequent problems could be indications of bowel or rectal cancer.
5. Swollen lymph nodes.
Lymph nodes are small glands located all over the body, including the neck and armpits. These glands swell up when you have a cold or cough, but if the swelling lasts longer than two weeks, you should get it checked out.
6. Skin abnormalities.
It’s important to pay attention to your skin to catch skin cancer early. Any new growths, patches, moles or spots, or changes in the size, shape or colour of any existing ones should be investigated right away.
7. Red or white patches in the mouth.
Any changes in the mouth, like the appearance of red or white patches, could be a sign of mouth cancer, especially in smokers or tobacco chewers.
8. Persistent fatigue.
Being a little tired now and then is one thing, but feeling continuously exhausted is another. Fatigue is a symptom that usually shows up a little later with most cancers, however it could show up early in the case of leukaemia.
9. Bloating (in women).
Unexplained bloating that doesn’t ease with time could be a symptom of ovarian cancer. It is usually accompanied by pain in the lower back or pelvic area, altered urination or bowel movements and a tendency to get full very fast at meal time.
10. Recurring back pain (in men).
Back pain could be a symptom of a spinal problem, but few people realise that it could be a symptom of cancer as well. Colon and prostate cancers especially can trigger recurring episodes of lower back pain.
11. Unexplained bleeding or discharge (in women).
Any spots, clots or other discharge in post-menopausal women, or discharge apart from the normal cycle in menstruating women, could be a symptom of either an infection or cervical cancer.
12. Changes in the groin area (in men).
Any lumps, heaviness or other changes in the groin area could be symptoms of testicular cancer. It’s important to report them immediately, because unlike prostate cancer, which takes time to develop, testicular cancer can escalate almost overnight.
13. Pain in the pelvis or abdomen (in women).
Pelvic or abdominal pain could be a symptom of ovarian cancer, especially if it is accompanied by bloating, urinary problems and discomfort while eating.
14. Pain in the groin, hips or thighs (in men).
Apart from back pain, prostate and testicular cancer can also cause pain or swelling in the groin, hip or thigh area.