Cancer gives most people no symptoms or signs that exclusively indicate the disease. Unfortunately, every complaint or symptom of cancer can be explained by a harmless condition as well. If certain symptoms occur or persist, however, a doctor should be seen for further evaluation. Some common symptoms that may occur with cancer are as follows:
- Persistent cough or blood-tinged saliva
- These symptoms usually represent simple infections such as
bronchitis or sinusitis.
- They could be symptoms of cancer of the lung, head, and neck.
Anyone with a nagging cough that lasts more than a month or with blood in the mucus that is coughed up should see a doctor
2. A change in bowel habits
- Most changes in bowel habits are related to your diet and fluid
- Doctors sometimes see pencil-thin stools with colon cancer.
- Occasionally, cancer exhibits continuous diarrhea.
- Some people with cancer feel as if they need to have a bowel
movement and still feel that way after they have had a bowel
movement. If any of these abnormal bowel complaints last more
than a few days, they require evaluation.
- A significant change in bowel habits that cannot be easily explained
by dietary changes needs to be evaluated.
3. Blood in the stool
- Hemorrhoids frequently cause rectal bleeding, but because
hemorrhoids are so common, they may exist with cancer.
Therefore, even when you have hemorrhoids, you should have a
doctor examine your entire intestinal tract when you have blood in
your bowel movements.
- With some individuals, X-ray studies may be enough to clarify a
- Colonoscopy is usually recommended. Routine colonoscopy, even
without symptoms, is recommended once you are 50 years old.
- Sometimes when the source of bleeding is entirely clear (for
example, recurrent ulcers), these studies may not be needed.
4. Unexplained anemia (low blood count)
- Anemia is a condition in which people have fewer than the
expected number of red blood cells in their blood. Anemia should
always be investigated.
- There are many kinds of anemia, but blood loss almost always
causes iron deficiency anemia. Unless there is an obvious source of
ongoing blood loss, this anemia needs to be explained.
- Many cancers can cause anemia, but bowel cancers most
commonly cause iron deficiency anemia. Evaluation should include
endoscopy or X-ray studies of your upper and lower intestinal
5. Breast lump or breast discharge
- Most breast lumps are noncancerous tumors such as
bordonuas or cysts. But all breast lumps need to be thoroughly
- A negative mammogram result is not usually sufficient to evaluate
a breast lump. Your doctor needs to determine the appropriate X-ray
study which might include an MRI or an ultrasound of the
- Generally, diagnosis requires a needle aspiration or biopsy (a small
- Discharge from a breast is common, but some forms of discharge
may be signs of cancer. If discharge is bloody or from only one
nipple, further evaluation is recommended.
- Women are advised to conduct monthly breast self-examinations.
6. Lumps in the testicles
- Most men (90%) with cancer of the testicle have a painless or
uncomfortable lump on a testicle.
- Some men have an enlarged testicle.
- Other conditions, such as infections and swollen veins, can also
cause changes in your testicles, but any lump should be evaluated. Men are advised to conduct monthly testicular self-examinations.
7. A change in urination
- Urinary symptoms can include frequent urination, small amounts of
urine, and slow urine “ow or a general change in bladder function.
- These symptoms can be caused by urinary infections (usually in
women) or, in men, by an enlarged prostate gland.
- Most men will suffer from harmless prostate enlargement as
they age and will often have these urinary symptoms.
- These symptoms may also signal prostate cancer.
- Men experiencing urinary symptoms need further
investigation, possibly including blood tests and a digital rectal
exam. The PSA blood test, its indications, and interpretation of
results should be discussed with your health care provider.
- If cancer is suspected, a biopsy of the prostate may be needed.
- Cancer of the bladder and pelvic tumors can also cause irritation of
the bladder and urinary frequency.