Cancer signs you should not ignore

by Symptom Advice on October 7, 2011

Published on 01/10/2011

Some women are as skilled as men at switching to denial mode and deliberately ignoring warning symptoms, writes Dr Marga Boyani

Women tend to be more vigilant than men about getting recommended health checkups and screenings, as well as getting potentially worrisome symptoms checked out.

However, younger women tend to ignore symptoms that could point to cancer because they have the notion that cancer is a problem for older people. for others yet, there is a belief that cancer is incurable, so why go there.

Here are some symptoms that may not immediately make a woman worry about cancer, but that should be checked out:

This is so common that many women just live with it yet it could point to ovarian cancer. Other symptoms of this deadly disease include abdominal pain, pain in the pelvis, feeling full quickly even when you have not eaten much, having an urgent need to go to the bathroom all the time and changes in your stool habits.

2. Unexplained and excessive weight loss

Many women would be delighted to lose weight without trying but unexplained and exccessive weight loss in a couple of months without an increase in exercise or a decrease in food intake should set the alarm bells ringing. it could be due to cancer but could also turn out to be another condition, such as an overactive thyroid gland.

3. Breast changes

Lumps are not the only breast symptoms that could point to cancer. Redness and thickening of the skin on the breast could indicate a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer. if you have a rash that persists over weeks, see a doctor. if the nipple changes or if you notice a discharge and are not breastfeeding, see a doctor, too.

4. Between-period bleeding

Premenopausal women tend to ignore between-period bleeding. But if a woman never spots between periods and she spots, this is abnormal for her. Between-period bleeding, especially if you are typically regular, needs to be checked out. Bleeding after menopause is considered a sign of cancer of the uterus (endometrial cancer) until proven otherwise.

Changes in moles are a well-known sign of skin cancer, but we should also watch for changes in skin colour. Sudden bleeding or too much scaling should be checked, too.

6. Blood in the wrong place

If you notice blood in your urine or your stool, don’t assume it is from a haemorrhoid or that it may be your period because it could be a sign of colon, bladder or kidney cancer. Coughing up blood is another danger sign that should not be ignored.

As people age they seem to complain more of various aches and pains, but pain, as vague as it may be, can also be an early symptom of some cancers. Pain that persists and is unexplained needs to be checked out. for example, gnawing abdominal pain and indigestion for no apparent reason could be an early clue to cancer of the oesophagus, stomach or throat.

Smokers should be especially alert for any white patches inside the mouth or white spots on the tongue because both can point to a pre-cancerous condition called leukoplakia that can develop into cancer of the mouth. Ask your dentist or doctor to take a look. if you have difficulty swallowing, it could be a sign of cancer of the oesophagus.

9. Changes in the lymph nodes

If you notice a lump or swelling in the lymph nodes under your armpit, in your neck or anywhere else or have a lymph node that gets progressively larger, and it has been longer than a month, see a doctor urgently.


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