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Top 5 cancer warning signs

Cancer (malignancy) is very special abnormal growth of cells. In general, cancer is the name of a big group of more than 100 diseases in which cells begin to grow out of control. These cancerous cells grow/multiply and can spread or invade to other organs and body parts. Cancer is the second most common cause of human mortality. Modern medicine is able to prevent and cure several types of cancer. Early cancer warning signs can detect very early stages of cancer.

Anyone can develop cancer but commonly cancerous activities start after 50. Often very early stages of cancer have very limited symptoms but eventually cancerous tumors grow large enough to be detected.

Sometimes cancer has no specific symptoms but often people ignore pretty specific symptoms. Cancer warning signs could lead to early diagnosis and effective treatment. Cancer warning signs never should be ignored because early detection can save lives.

Top 5 cancer warning signs – Gastrointestinal warning signs

Top 5 cancer warning signs

Most common cancer warning signs for gastrointestinal system include the following:

  • Difficulty swallowing,
  • Persistent indigestion,
  • Change in bowel habits,
  • Continuous diarrhea,
  • Barrett esophagus.

Persistent difficulties swallowing could be signs of throat, lung or esophageal cancer. Difficulty swallowing solid foods could be a symptom of esophagus cancer. Special attention should be paid to regular indigestion, on-going diarrhea and unexplained abnormal stool (pencil-thin stools, very liquid stools).

Sometimes changes in bowel habits could be related to special types of diet and fluid consumption. If abnormal bowel complaints last more than few days, they require special medical monitoring and evaluation.

Barrett’s esophagus is a serious complication – it is gastro-esophageal reflux disease. In Barrett’s esophagus, normal tissue lining the esophagus changes to tissue that resembles the lining of the intestine. This condition increases risks of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma (very serious and potentially fatal cancer of the esophagus).

Top 5 cancer warning signs – Respiratory system (breathing and coughing)

Most common cancer warning signs for respiratory system include the following:

  • Persistent cough especially combined with blood-tinged saliva,
  • Hoarseness,
  • Shortness of breath (breathlessness),
  • Wheezing or croaky voice,
  • Chest pain.

Bronchitis and sinusitis could trigger unpleasant coughing which can be easily treated. Persistent cough that lasts more than 25-30 days could be warning sign of lung, head or neck cancer. In most cases of lung cancer cough could be combined with wheezing and shortness of breath.

If you had cough combined with blood-tinged saliva (no matter how much blood or what color), you should visit your doctor urgently.

Many people experience hoarseness during respiratory infection, allergy or vocal cord polyps but if hoarseness lasts more than 25-30 days, it could be a sign of throat cancer.

Special attention should be paid to chest pain especially combined with chronic coughing. It could be a symptom of leukemia and lung tumor.

Wheezing and croaky voice could be symptoms of common cold. But if they last longer than 20-25 days, it could be warning signs of cancerous transformations in throat or lungs.

Persistent on-going shortness of breath could be a symptom of lung cancer.

Top 5 cancer warning signs – Circulatory system (blood and bleeding)

Most common cancer warning signs for circulatory system include the following:

  • Unexplained anemia (deficiency of red cells or of hemoglobin),
  • Hematuria (presence of red blood cells in urine),
  • Rectal bleeding (blood in stool),
  • Vaginal bleeding.

Any loss of blood (trauma, surgical intervention, etc) could cause anemia. At the same time, many cancers can cause iron deficiency anemia (commonly bowel cancers). Any type of anemia without obvious source of ongoing blood loss should be investigated by experts.

Blood in urine could appear during urinary infection (including bladder inflammation) and kidney stones but sometimes hematuria could be a symptom of bladder or kidney cancer.

Hemorrhoids could frequently cause rectal bleeding. Sometimes blood in stool could be warning sign of colorectal cancer. Medical experts recommend colonoscopy after 50.

Unusual vaginal bleeding or bloody discharge (after intercourse or between periods) could be a symptom of uterine cancer. Every sexually active woman after 20 should have important Pap test which can identify very early stages of cancerous transformations. Healthy women could have Pap test every 3 years.

Top 5 cancer warning signs – Breasts

Breast cancer could appear not only in women but also in men (rarely). Most common cancer warning signs of breast cancer include the following:

Often breast lumps are benign – they could appear because of hormonal fluctuations, damaged fat tissue, breast infections, breast fibroadenoma or fibrocystic breasts. Sometimes breast lump can be cancerous. Special attention should be paid to breast lumps in menopausal overweight or obese women. In most cases breast cancerous lump is hard and irregular in shape. The only objective breast lump clarification can be done by mammography and biopsy (if needed).

During breast cancer certain changes could occur on nipples (one side changes) – changes in shape, size, appearance (redness, roughness, thickening, crusted) and position. If you had normal nipples and suddenly one nipple became inverted, better to schedule mammography. Inverted nipple can be very early sign of breast cancer. Special attention should be paid to discharge from nipples.

Unexplained breast pain in one breast which is not connected to menstrual cycle or any hormonal treatments can be breast cancer warning sign. Pain could be in only one part of breast or in armpit.

One side breast changes in size or shape could be considered as warning sign (especially combined with swelling or discomfort in armpit). Breast skin changes also could be warning signs including one side redness, “orange peel skin”, dimpled or puckered skin.

Top 5 cancer warning signs – Skin

Special attention should be paid to obvious change in wart or mole – change in size, shape or color. Multicolored moles with irregular edges (especially combined with bleeding) could be malignant (cancerous). Larger moles are more dangerous.

General cancer warning signs

  • Swollen lymph nodes in armpits, groin or neck,
  • Unexpected weight loss,
  • Recurrent fever and infections,
  • Persistent headaches,
  • Chronic pain in bones,
  • Persistent fatigue, nausea, or vomiting,
  • Unexplained bruising and bleeding.

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