The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 1.5 million new cancer cases in 2015. While this is a high number, medical experts across the board agree that early detection is crucial to successfully fighting the disease.
There are some symptoms one should never ignore, and paying attention to these changes in the body is such an important part of detecting serious medical issues like cancer. I know my own body best, so when I saw this list of common cancer symptoms that can help with early detection, I knew I’d be watching out for them.
Dr. Beth Y. Karlan of Cedars-Sinai’s Cancer Institute says that if you have symptoms that are “persistent and progressive, meaning you wake up every morning and feel something and it has you worried — even for two weeks in a row — it really is worth calling your physician and having it checked out.”
Like a lot of people, I incorrectly thought that breast cancer symptoms only affected women and I didn’t have to worry about them. I was also wrong in thinking that symptoms associated with colon cancer only affected men. But I was very surprised to see how many symptoms affected both men and women, just like in the case of a heart attack. I’m so glad I know what to look for now!
Scroll through to see which symptoms should be a red flag for women, men, or for both women and men. While these symptoms don’t always mean cancer is the problem, they are a sign that you should see a doctor right away.
Bloating in Women
Unexplained and chronic bloating is one of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and should be taken seriously.
Dr. Beth Y. Karlan says, “For years it’s been known by the misnomer of the silent killer, and we really need to put that aside. Ovarian cancer clearly has symptoms.”
If bloating occurs in conjunction with feeling full too quickly, pelvic or lower back pain, or change in bowel or bladder habits, particularly if it occurs daily for a couple of weeks, you should definitely visit a doctor right away.
Irregular Bleeding or Discharge in Women
Any abnormal bleeding that occurs after menopause or outside of your normal cycle could be a sign of something serious like endometrial or cervical cancer.
Dr. Carolyn Runowicz says, “Any bleeding, staining, little drops on your underwear, or big clots are abnormal and should be immediately investigated.”
Likewise, any kind of unusual discharge could be a symptom of an infection or cervical cancer and warrants a trip to the doctor.
Pelvic or Abdominal Pain in Women
Pelvic or abdominal pain can be an indication of something serious, such as ovarian cancer.
This pain, when accompanied by bloating, trouble eating, or urinary problems, necessitates a trip to the doctor.
The American Cancer Society writes, “These symptoms are also commonly cause by benign (non-cancerous diseases) and cancers of other organs. When they are caused by ovarian cancer, they tend to be persistent and represent a change from normal.”
Persistent Back Pain in Men
There can be many causes of back pain that are completely unrelated to cancer. However, colon and prostate cancers sometimes show themselves in persistent back pain, so a trip to the doctor is definitely recommended.
Healthline writes, “Back pain is the most common cause of disability, but few men realize that it may be a sign of cancer. Prostate cancer specifically may cause these symptoms within the bones of the hips and lower back.”
Certainly, occasional muscle pain should not be cause for panic. But a recurring condition may be a sign of something more serious.
Changes in the Testicles in Men
One of the best ways to catch testicular cancer early is by monitoring your testicles for any changes.
Dr. Herbert Lepor says, “If you notice a lump, heaviness, or any other change in your testicle, never delay having it looked at. Unlike prostate cancer, which grows slowly, testicular cancer can take off over night.”
Regular self-exams can be crucial to catching testicular cancer before it spreads.
Pain in the Groin, Hips, or Thighs in Men
In addition to back pain, prostate cancer can show itself by causing pain in the groin, hips, or thighs, and a trip to the doctor is definitely needed.
While prostate cancer can cause discomfort in these areas, testicular cancer can also cause groin pain with an aching feeling in the groin or testicles.
Any kind of chronic pain or swelling could definitely be an indication of something more serious.