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Cancer Symptoms (cont.)

More Cancer Signs and Symptoms

  • Blood in the urine
    • Hematuria or blood in the urine can be caused by urinary infection, kidney stones, or other causes.
    • For some people, it is a symptom of cancer of the bladder or kidney.
    • Any episode of blood in the urine should be investigated.
  • Hoarseness
    • Hoarseness not caused by a respiratory infection or that lasts longer than three to four weeks should be evaluated.
    • Hoarseness can be caused by simple allergy or by vocal cord polyps, but it could also be the first sign of cancer of the throat.
  • Persistent lumps or swollen glands
    • Lumps most frequently represent harmless conditions such as a benign cyst. A doctor should examine any new lump or a lump that won't go away.
    • Lumps may represent cancer or a swollen lymph gland related to cancer.
    • Lymph nodes swell from infection and other causes and may take weeks to shrink again.
    • A lump or gland that remains swollen for three to four weeks should be evaluated.
  • Obvious change in a wart or a mole
    • Multicolored moles that have irregular edges or bleed may be cancerous.
    • Larger moles are more worrisome and need to be evaluated, especially if they seem to be enlarging.
    • Removing a mole is usually simple. You should have your doctor evaluate any suspicious mole for removal. The doctor will send it for examination under a microscope for skin cancer.
  • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
    • Most people with chronic heartburn usually do not have serious problems.
    • People who suffer from chronic or lasting symptoms despite using over-the-counter antacids may need to have an upper GI endoscopy.
    • A condition called Barrett esophagus, which can lead to cancer of the esophagus, can be treated with medication and then monitored by a doctor.
    • Difficulty swallowing is a common problem, especially in elderly people, and has many causes.
      • Swallowing problems need to be investigated, because nutrition is always important.
      • Difficulty swallowing solids can be seen with cancer of the esophagus.
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
    • Unusual vaginal bleeding or bloody discharge may be an early sign of cancer of the uterus. Women should be evaluated when they have bleeding after intercourse or bleeding between periods.
    • Bleeding that comes back, that lasts two or more days longer than expected, or that is heavier than usual also merits medical examination.
    • Postmenopausal bleeding, unless expected on hormone therapy, is also worrisome and should be evaluated.
    • Usually, the evaluation will include an endometrial biopsy, in which a doctor takes a small tissue sample from inside the uterus for testing.
    • A PAP smear should be part of a woman's routine medical care.
  • Unexpected weight loss, night sweats, or fever
    • These nonspecific symptoms might be present with several different types of cancer.
    • Various infections can lead to similar symptoms (for example, tuberculosis).
  • Continued itching in the anal or genital area
    • Precancerous or cancerous conditions of the skin of the genital or anal areas can cause persistent itching.
    • Some cancers cause skin color changes.
    • Several infections or skin conditions (for example, fungal infections or psoriasis) also can cause these symptoms. If itching does not stop with over-the-counter topical medications, your doctor should inspect the area.
  • Nonhealing sores
    • Sores generally heal quickly. If an area fails to heal, you may have cancer and should see a doctor.
    • Nonhealing sores in your mouth or persistent white or red patches on your gums, tongue, or tonsils are also should raise concerns.
    • Some nonhealing sores may be due to poor circulation (for example, diabetic foot ulcers).
  • Headaches
    • Headaches have many causes (for example, migraines, aneurysms) but cancer is not a common one.
    • A severe unrelenting headache that feels different from usual can be a sign of cancer, but aneurysms may present in the same way.
    • If your headache fails to improve with over-the-counter medications, see a doctor promptly.
  • Back pain, pelvic pain, bloating, or indigestion
    • These are common symptoms of daily life, often related to food intake, muscle spasms or strains, but they also can be seen in ovarian cancer.
    • Ovarian cancer is particularly difficult to treat, because it is frequently diagnosed late in the course of the disease.
    • The American Cancer Society and other organizations have been trying to make both patients and physicians more aware and consider this diagnosis if the classic symptoms are present.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/6/2014

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