8 Early Warning Caner Symptoms

1. Changes in Bowel Habits: The term “change in bowel habits” can include any constant change in frequency, consistency (diarrhea or constipation), color, shape or caliber of the stools. Sometimes cancer can block the bowel. This is called a bowel obstruction. The symptoms include constipation and being unable to pass wind. Constipation is defined as having less than three bowel movements in a week. Small, hard stool is also an indicator of constipation. Constant diarrhea, defined, as loose, runny or watery stool should also be investigated. Also changes in color, such as dark or blackened stool or blood in the stool, may also indicate changes in the colon. A feeling of discomfort or an urge to have a bowel movement, even after opening your bowel or a feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet can be symptoms of bowel cancer. Any changes lasting three weeks or more should be evaluated.

2. Changes in bladder habits: This may include a variety of symptoms such as the need to urinate often, feeling pain or burning while urinating or a frequent urge to urinate whether or not anything is produced are all possible signs that need investigation. Cancer can develop in the bladder, kidneys, renal pelvis (the part of the kidneys where urine is collected) or ureter (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Tumors may also cause incontinence (urinating when you don’t intend to). Needing to pee more often or more urgently than normal can also be a sign of ovarian cancer. Prostate cancer may also cause a sudden and urgent need to pee, night waking to use the bathroom, dribbling urine after you think you’re finished, and more frequent urination day or night.

3. Nagging cough: Many people dismiss or adapt to a chronic cough, attributing it to something else. A persistent cough, defined as a cough that lasts for at least 8 consecutive weeks, should always be investigated. At least half of people diagnosed with lung cancer have a cough that just wouldn’t go away, at the time of diagnosis. Excessive coughing are also common signs of laryngeal and thyroid cancer. Cancer coughs have no specific pattern and may occur during the day only, or continue through the night, interfering with sleep and causing daytime fatigue. The cough may be dry or you may cough up mucous, it may be accompanied by chest pain, or you may notice a change in a cough you have had for a long time.

4. Difficulty swallowing: This is also called dysphagia, occurs when a person has trouble getting food or liquid to pass down the mouth or throat. Some people may gag, cough, spit, dribble or choke when trying to swallow while others may feel like food is sticking on the way down. Mouth and throat cancers can cause the passages to become restricted or narrowed making swallowing difficult. It is a common symptom of a variety of head and neck cancers such as esophageal, oropharyngeal cancer, thyroid and laryngeal cancers. It may also be among the symptoms for people with stomach cancer. Initially the problem may be noticed when large pieces of poorly chewed food are swallowed but can get progressively worse to the point that even liquids become difficult to swallow.

5. Red or White Patches or Sores inside the Mouth: Cancer of the oral cavity (mouth) is the most common type of head and neck cancer. Most of these cancers can be cured if discovered early. The most common symptoms include a sore or lump on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal or bleeds easily, and white and/or red patches or coating on the gums, tongue, or cheeks that doesn’t go away. The inside of the mouth may also appear red, shiny or swollen. If you wear dentures, they may become uncomfortable or fit poorly. White patches inside the mouth may be leukoplakia, which is pre-cancerous and when not treated, can become mouth cancer. Any long-lasting mouth changes should be checked by a doctor or dentist right away.

6. Repeated infections: Frequent infections are often repeatedly treated only for infection itself but can also be a sign that something more serious is wrong. Repeated respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis can be a common early symptom of lung cancer. A tumor located near an airway can cause an obstruction that predisposes you to persistent infections that does not respond to antibiotic treatment. As chronic lymphocytic leukemia develops, repeated infections occurring over a short space of time are common. Infections, when occurring regularly, should always be investigated further.

7. Hoarseness: If your voice is hoarse, you may have a raspy, weak, or airy quality to your voice that prevents you from making smooth vocal sounds. It is defined as an abnormal change to the voice producing a rough, harsh sound. A hoarse voice persisting for longer than three weeks can be a sign of cancer. It may be caused by excessive coughing or due to a tumor pressing nerves that travel to the vocal cords. It is the most common sign of cancer of the larynx-the voice box-where persistent hoarseness is often the earliest sign. If you have persistent hoarseness lasting for more than 10 days, seek prompt medical attention, as it may be a sign of cancer.

8. Unusual bleeding: Unusual bleeding can happen in early cancer and should always be evaluated. If you experience bleeding with no obvious injury, talk to your doctor. Coughing up blood may be a sign of lung cancer or Laryngeal Cancer. Blood in the urine is usually the first and most common sign of cancer of the bladder or kidneys. If you have blood in your urine, you may see pink, brownish, or red discoloration. Blood in the stool could be a sign of colon or rectal cancer. A bloody discharge from the nipple can indicate breast cancer. For women, any abnormal vaginal bleeding should always be checked out. For those after menopause, vaginal bleeding is never normal. For those still getting a period, any changes in the menstruation or spotting in between should be promptly investigated. Contact bleeding, occurring after sexual intercourse, also needs to report to the doctor. Cervical, ovarian, vaginal, endometrial and uterine cancer can all present with irregular bleeding and are often overlooked by women in the early stages.

Knowing what changes to look out for can mean finding cancer early enough to have a higher chance of treating it successfully.

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