When it comes to cancer, many treatment advances have been made in recent years, but early detection continues to be critical. Being alert to the first symptoms of cancer can ensure they’re diagnosed when they’re most treatable and curable; waiting too long to seek medical care can have the exact opposite effect. Although cancer is a complex disease that can affect a wide range of body systems, doctors say a few symptoms are highly suspicious for being signs of early cancer. They’re always a sign you should contact your doctor ASAP for advice. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Rectal bleeding, including blood in the toilet bowl or on toilet paper, can have several causes, ranging from hemorrhoids to colon or rectal cancer. Experts say it should always be reported to your doctor immediately, who can determine if further testing is warranted.
“Any abnormal bleeding, which would include bleeding after menopause, bleeding between periods, or very heavy or prolonged menstrual cycles would warrant a discussion with a doctor,” says Dr. Christine O’Connor, director of well-woman and adolescent care at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “These are often a benign treatable issue, but can sometimes be a sign of something more serious, and shouldn’t be ignored.”
Signs of ovarian cancer can be vague. They can easily be overlooked or attributed to something less serious, like digestive issues. But if you experience, bloating, pain, or pressure (in the area between the pubic bone to below the ribcage) that lasts more than two weeks, it’s worth calling your doctor for advice. Any change in bowel habits may also be an early sign of ovarian cancer and is worth checking out.
Losing weight without trying might seem like great news. Unfortunately, unexplained weight loss can be a sign of cancer, particularly leukemia, lymphoma, and cancers of the esophagus, liver, colon, and pancreas. This occurs when cancer hijacks the metabolism, using the body’s energy sources to feed its growth. If you’re dropping pounds and there’s no clear explanation—like if you’ve started a new diet or have really been hitting the gym—it’s a good idea to give your doctor a call.
Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer death in the US, so it’s important to be alert to potential early symptoms. Experts say this often includes a cough that won’t go away. Other early symptoms of lung cancer can include coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm, hoarseness, or chest pain.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and as with many cancers, early detection is crucial. It’s important to do regular self-exams and be alert to any changes in a mole or freckle, or the appearance of new moles. Remember ABCDE and tell your doctor if you see any of the following in a mole or freckle:
A = asymmetry
B = border changes
C = color changes
D = diameter changes (increase in size)
E = elevation or evolution (a growth that has changed over time)
And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more