Cancer is a tricky disease to spot, because it plays havoc with almost every part of your body.
You might feel tired, lose weight, run a fever, or none of the above. Or all of the above.
And while you might think something is wrong, you can't just run to the doctor for every little thing - all that stress is unhealthy too.
One study found that less than 60% of people who experienced a symptom that could have been cancer went to their doctor to get it checked.
1. Unexplained skin changes
These days, people know more about the risks of developing skin cancer, but don't take the right precautions when they see it.
Along with using sunscreen, you need to watch any moles, freckles, or warts on your body.
If they change color, size, or shape, see a doctor right away to check if they are cancerous.
You should be just as concerned about dark or red skin, along with itchy, yellow jaundiced skin (a major symptom of pancreatic cancer).
Even unusual hair growth could be a sign of cancer affecting your hormone balance.
2. Wounds that do not heal
Cancer often takes the form of open sores that are mistaken for other conditions.
Skin cancers often resemble sores, and so does mouth cancer, which can be harder to spot.
The key to identifying cancer sores is that they do not get better over time.
Sometimes cancerous sores will even form on your genitals, and might be mistaken for an STD. Get these wounds checked right away.
Most women know to check their breasts for cancerous lumps, but men should check for them too.
Lumps on the breasts, testicles, and glands like the thyroid are often a sign of cancer.
As you feel for lumps, check for warm, reddish skin in these areas too. That's also a symptom of cancer.
4. A cough that won't go away
If your cough is associated with other symptoms of a cold - like runny nose and sneezing - then you probably shouldn't worry.
But a persistent cough with no other symptoms is a serious sign of lung cancer, especially if you're coughing up fluids or blood.
If you have a cough and a hoarse voice, you should be concerned about throat or thyroid cancer.
Along with its affect on your mood, this mental health condition is known for causing fatigue, pain, and stiffness.
But often, patients mistake their tiredness and pain from undiagnosed cancer for the usual aches of depression.
Ask yourself: along with changes in my mood, have I noticed any other worrying symptoms?
If the answer is yes, get to the doctor quick.
6. Long-lasting fever
A fever is your immune system's way of battling an infection.
But certain kinds of blood cancers - including leukemia and lymphoma - affect your body's white blood cell count.
This causes a fever that sticks around for an extended period without other flu-like symptoms.
If you have a fever that just won't get away, visit your doctor.
7. Chronic pain
Bone cancer, brain cancer, and testicular cancer are all associated with chronic pain.
Other kinds of cancer that cause constant pain are less obvious.
Colon and ovarian cancer can both cause back pain that might be mistake for normal aches and pains.
Meanwhile, a dull pain in your abdomen could be caused by stomach or pancreatic cancer.
8. Urine and stool changes
For one thing, chronic constipation or diarrhea could be a sign that part of your digestive system has cancer.
Having trouble passing urine or "pauses" when you pee are just as troubling.
Blood in either your stool or urine is a red flag - whether it's caused by cancer or not - and you should see a doctor right away.
9. Unusual bleeding
Seeing red from your gums, in your pee and stool, or when you cough are all possible symptoms of cancer.
For women, vaginal bleeding between periods should be a major concern. It's often caused by cervical or endometrial cancer.
In some cases of breast cancer, your nipples will even give off a bloody discharge.
10. Trouble swallowing
This could be caused by allergies or a simple cold.
But when you have persistent trouble swallowing you should visit the doctor and find out why.
Throat or thyroid cancer could be the cause, but even stomach cancer can "back up" your digestive system.
We all deal with bloating sometimes, and usually our diet is to blame.
But if you notice bloating on an empty stomach, you could be seeing the effect of tumors.
A number of organ cancers cause bloating, so visit your doctor if a change of diet doesn't improve your condition.
12. Unexplained weight loss
Even when we are eating and exercising on a regular schedule, our weights can fluctuate.
But when you lose 10 pounds or more, there should be a clear reason why.
If you haven't changed your exercise plan or diet, something is probably wrong.
Visit your doctor and have them see if cancer is causing your weight loss.
We can all get run down by our hectic schedules, but that doesn't mean your fatigue is perfectly natural.
The key is to test if a little rest and recuperation makes you feel better.
If you catch up on your sleep and give yourself time to rest, your condition should improve.
If not, it's time to see a doctor.
Here's more helpful health advice:
- 5 causes of chest pain besides a heart attack.
- 7 common risk factors that can cause early menopause.
- 9 surprising symptoms of pancreatic cancer you should know.
[H/T: American Cancer Society]