Most signs and symptoms of cancer mimic symptoms of other diseases or conditions, so it’s easy to ignore them. It’s essential to know your body so that you can quickly see a doctor if you notice an unusual pain or other change that persists and deteriorates.
Almost every woman experience bloating, especially during monthly menstrual flow. However, if you notice you’re still bloated after the end of your cycle or you feel constantly constipated, it could be a sign of ovarian or uterine cancer. “If it’s been a few weeks and isn’t improving, that’s a change, that’s not you,” says Dr. Wender. “Ask a doctor to take a closer look.”
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Many ovarian cancer patients report vague symptoms, like bloating, that they ignored for months before seeking help, says Moshe Shike, MD, gastroenterologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Feeling very full despite eating very little is a common sign of ovarian cancer.
- Stomach pain or nausea
A stomach upset is so common that most women may tend to overlook it. But if you notice persistent stomach cramps or are suddenly nauseous all the time and it’s not improving, then you need to see a doctor. It could turn out to be something as simple as an ulcer, but it could also be a symptom of leukemia or liver, esophageal, colorectal, or pancreatic cancer.
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- Excessive bruising
If you start to notice bruises popping up all the time, especially in strange places like your hands or fingers – even when you didn’t brush them against a hard surface, it should raise an alarm. Easy, uncommon bruising can be a sign of leukemia, according to Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Over time, leukemia impairs the blood’s ability to carry oxygen and clot.
- Persistent fatigue
There may be some days when you may be low on energy. That’s understandable. However, you should feel refreshed after a good night’s sleep or two. If you notice you’re exhausted every day even without doing any hard work, for more than a month, or experience shortness of breath, see a doctor, says Dr. Wender. “Most of the time it won’t be cancer, but get it examined because you never know.” Leukemia and lymphoma commonly cause persistent fatigue.
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- Chronic coughing
Everyone gets colds that have you feel like you’re coughing hard. But if you develop a cough that lasts three weeks or more and you don’t have other symptoms that usually accompany a cold or allergies, like a stuffy nose, it could be an early symptom of lung cancer. Leukemia can also cause symptoms that seem like bronchitis or a bad chest cold.
- Frequent fevers or infection
If you’re usually healthy but notice yourself getting sick or feverish more regularly, it could be an early sign of leukemia. Leukemia is cancer of the blood and it causes the body to produce abnormal white blood cells, sapping the body’s infection-fighting abilities by dwindling the immune system. Symptoms to watch out for are fever that won’t go away coupled with body aches.
- Sores or pain in the mouth
You may have a cold sore that heals, or a toothache that stops after visiting a dentist. But then if you notice sores that don’t heal, pain that lingers, white or red patches on the gums or tongue, and any swelling or numbness of the jaw that persist for longer than two weeks, it could be a sign of some mouth cancers.
- Noticeable skin changes
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in America, but it’s also one of the trickiest to recognize the early signs, says Dr. Wender. “Skin cancer is a tough one—many people think freckles, moles, or a darker age spot is just like the others they’ve had,” he says. Dr. Wender says if you notice a mole getting darker, larger, or becoming raised, get it examined by a doctor. Melanoma skin changes are easier to identify because those spots are often irregularly shaped as opposed to round, significantly darker in color, or even two distinctly different colors within one spot, he says. “Melanoma is far less common than other skin cancers but has the potential to be more deadly,” says Wender. “
- Chronic headaches
If you’re not susceptible to to migraines and never get headaches, but suddenly find yourself popping ibuprofen every day, it could be a brain cancer symptom, which causes pain by pressing on nerves.
- Difficulty swallowing
It may be difficult to swallow if you have a sore throat, but if you notice it persists for a few weeks and gets worse, consult your doctor. This is a common sign of throat or stomach cancer and could be an early sign of lung cancer too.