Today, people are living longer than ever after a cancer diagnosis due to improved cancer screenings. Routine screenings can catch diseases earlier, and therefore mean that the illness is more straightforward to treat.
You can pick up on early warning signs by paying close attention to changes in your body. If you notice something new or different that lasts several weeks, you should contact your GP. Noticing one of the following symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer, but if persistent enough, these symptoms shouldn’t be ignored.
- Abnormal periods or pelvic pain
Most women have the occasional irregular period or cramps. But persistent pain or changes in your cycle can be a sign of cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer.
- Changes in bathroom habits
Significant changes in bodily functions can indicate colon, prostate, or bladder cancer, among other cancers. Warning signs include: persistent constipation or diarrhoea, black or red blood in your stool, more frequent urination, and blood in your urine.
- Breast changes
These include a new lumps, dimpling, discolouring, changes around the nipple or unusual discharge that you didn’t have before. Although most breast cancer occurs in women, men can develop it too.
- Chronic coughing
A cough that persists for more than two weeks, especially a dry cough, can be a sign of lung cancer.
- Chronic headache
A headache that lasts more than two weeks and doesn’t respond to the usual medications can be caused by a brain tumour.
- Difficulty swallowing
If you feel as though food is getting stuck in your throat or have trouble swallowing for more than two weeks, this can be a sign of throat, lung or stomach cancer.
- Excessive bruising
A bruise on the shin from bumping into the coffee table is normal. But suddenly getting a lot of bruises in unusual places that haven’t been bumped can indicate various blood cancers.
- Frequent fevers or infections
Spiking a fever over and over or going from one infection to the next can indicate an immune system that’s been rendered more susceptible by lymphoma or leukaemia.
- Oral changes
Persistent sores or lesions or painful areas in the mouth, especially in people who smoke or drink heavily, can indicate various oral cancers.
- Skin changes
A shift in the appearance of a mole or birthmark should always be assessed by a doctor. To remember which changes are cause for concern, use this easy mnemonic, ABCDE.
- Asymmetry: One half of the mole or mark doesn’t look like the other.
- Border: The edges are irregular or blurred.
- Colour: It’s varied or inconsistent, both black and brown.
- Diameter: It’s larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
- Evolving: This refers to any mole that grows, bleeds or otherwise changes over time.
- Pain that lasts
- Persistent pain anywhere in your body that has no clear cause and doesn’t respond to standard treatments should be evaluated.
- Persistent fatigue
A sudden, lasting change in your energy level, no matter how much sleep you’ve been getting, can be a sign of leukaemia or lymphoma.
- Postmenopausal bleeding
There are a number of reasons for this, but if it persists, your doctor may want to check for cervical cancer.
- Stomach pain or nausea
Unusual discomfort that lasts more than two weeks can be a warning sign of liver, pancreatic or various digestive system cancers.
- Unexplained weight loss
Weight fluctuates. But the loss of pounds when you’re not trying, or the loss of your appetite, can indicate many types of cancers, especially ones that have spread.
- Unusual lumps
Any new lump or mass that doesn’t go away should be evaluated. Lymph nodes often become swollen when you have a cold, but if the swelling persists after you’re well, you should contact your doctor.
If you are experiencing any unusual or persistent symptoms, you should contact your GP immediately. At Pall Mall, we offer private GP appointments and many screening services for cancer. Click here for more information or call us on 03300 58 44 55.