9 Cancer Symptoms You Might Be Ignoring, But Shouldn’t

Have you ever wondered if you are exhibiting cancer symptoms? Sure, we all fall into the trap of going on Google to search for any sudden symptoms we may exhibit.

The running joke is that anything you happen to search for, Google will tell you that you have cancer in one way or another. If that happens, don’t worry, you most probably have nothing akin to cancer, and it could be something quite minor. (Still, you should still see your family doctor to make sure you are alright.)

However, there are quite a lot of cancer symptoms that are so common that many of us end up ignoring them. It’s counterintuitive to ignore some of these symptoms, but we cannot help but either confuse them with something else or think that they are normal, when in reality they are anything but.

We have gathered some of the most common cancer symptoms that most people don’t pay attention to, so you too can be in the know about sudden changes that need your attention as soon as possible!

cancer symptoms
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Fatigue

It is normal to find yourself tired and exhausted when you have had a hectic week, where you ended up being stressed and anxious most of the time. Especially if you know that the next week is going to be just as hectic or even worse! However, if you know that you aren’t dealing with extra stress or there is no reason for you to feel so fatigued, you should make an appointment with your doctor.

This is a common cancer symptom that gets swept under the rug, especially if you have other causes that could lead to extreme tiredness. Yet, when it becomes atypical and you cannot explain why you are so tired constantly (be it due to diet, exercise, depression, or other medical conditions) and it has been persisting for weeks, you should definitely look into it with your doctor. It is a symptom of various types of cancer, and you should discover it as soon as possible.

Chronic coughing

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have become even more careful when we hear someone coughing around us, and if we happen to cough ourselves, we rush to check if it is something else. Despite this, the newest variants of coronavirus don’t have the same coughing symptoms, and if we are not positive, we end up thinking it is just a cold or respiratory infection.

Santosh Kesari, MD, is a board-certified neuro-oncologist and neurologist at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. He warns that chronic coughing is often the first cancer symptom when talking about lung cancer. Any persistent cough should be investigated, and if you know yourself to have a chronic cough, you should pay attention to it.

If you are a heavy smoker, you might be accustomed to coughing as it is a side effect of smoking, but you should be careful if there are any changes in the way you cough—a more hoarse or deep cough should start to ring a bell that it’s high time you visit a pneumologist.

A good course of action would be to schedule a doctor’s appointment if you have had a persistent cough for more than three weeks, and immediately if you happen to cough blood, as it is a severe symptom of multiple diseases, not only cancer.

Yellowing of the eyes

No, we don’t mean the iris. This condition is generally known as jaundice or icterus, and it occurs when the whites of your eyes change color to yellow.

It sounds horrifying, and it’s actually very scary (aside from the fact that when you first see it, you might freak out). This is a common cancer symptom at an early stage of pancreatic cancer, bile duct cancer, gallbladder cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which is a type of cancer of the liver.

There are different reasons why your eyes turn yellow, and none of them are a good sign, so you should go to the doctor as fast as possible. Your medic will schedule a number of tests to determine the exact cause, such as different blood tests, a CT scan or an ultrasound of the abdomen, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. This symptom will not go away on its own, so you shouldn’t just ignore it.

cancer symptoms
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Bloating

More often than not, bloating is just annoying. There are a myriad of reasons why you would end up bloated, such as eating something that generally causes such problems, or because there are aliments our stomach doesn’t agree with, or we have certain conditions that may cause it.

What most people don’t know is that bloating is one cancer symptom that many ends up ignoring, disregarding it as a reaction to having eaten something. It is, in fact, one of the first symptoms that women diagnosed with ovarian cancer recall! However, it’s just as common to observe it in cases of pancreatic cancer, and it is associated with uterine, liver, stomach, and colon cancers as well.

Being bloated occasionally is not a problem, but if you notice that you’re being bloated more than normal, or that there seems to be something wrong with your stomach, you should definitely head to the doctor. Especially if they are associated with fatigue and different bathroom habits.

Difficulty remembering things

We generally associate memory loss with other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, or we think of it as something that comes with old age. Yet, if you happen to notice that your memory seems to not be as efficient as it once was and that these moments of forgetfulness are accompanied by other issues like mood changes and headaches, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible.

Memory loss is very prominent when it comes to brain tumors, and it can also be a cancer symptom! Most people who have brain tumors report that this is the first symptom they notice, as their memory loss is not related to injury or age. However, you shouldn’t rely solely on this symptom when it comes to brain tumors.

Theodore Schwartz, MD, a neurosurgeon at the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, says that the symptoms are directly impacted by the location of the brain tumor. Some may not end up with the same symptoms, but they could very well have others, such as limb weakness or blurry vision. This is why it’s crucial to be careful and catch cancer symptoms in their early stages, to be able to combat this deadly disease as fast as possible.

Abdominal pain

A common cancer symptom could be simple abdominal pain, especially when we are talking about stomach tumor symptoms! Unfortunately, a lot of stomach cancer patients confess that they mistook such a touchy issue for a common stomach virus. Living with persistent pain in the abdomen or even simple discomfort is not something to take lightly!

A lot of stomach cancer patients also said they felt full in the upper part of the abdomen even after eating small meals, which would generally not cause such a feeling. The warning signs are even bigger if you generally don’t have issues with bloating or you get sudden abdominal pains. You should always listen to the signs your stomach gives you!

cancer symptoms
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Skin discoloration

It’s normal to have some patches of discolored skin. Be it that you have birthmarks or that some of them are due to some skin pigmentation disorders, infections, or rashes, they are nothing to worry about too much. However, if your skin starts to turn orange, you shouldn’t take it lightly as it is a serious health problem and a known cancer symptom.

It could be that there is a tumor on the bile duct that makes it enter the bloodstream, causing the change in skin color. Unfortunately, it can be a sign of advanced cancer, but it is not always the case, as it can also be a cancer symptom that appears even in less serious cases, where it can simply be removed with surgery and a good recovery plan.

The important thing is that once you start seeing something like this or any other major change in your skin color, you find out the reason behind it. That way, you can either discover potential cancer before it advances or get the right treatment for your condition.

Acid reflux

Acid reflux is a very common problem for adults in the United States. One in five Americans gets acid reflux or heartburn once a week or more often. So, if you happen to have this problem, you shouldn’t automatically think you have cancer, as while it can be a cancer symptom, it is not definitive.

What you should be on the lookout for is a sudden increase in these episodes when you haven’t made any diet changes. This is due to the fact that sudden acid reflux can be caused by tumors of the liver, stomach, or esophagus. And to make matters worse, if you have already been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus (a condition caused by chronic acid reflux that is considered precancerous), you are at an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.

This is why, if you know yourself to have problems with acid reflux but you also happen to experience a burning, painful sensation in your lower chest, it’s high time you made a doctor’s appointment.

Unexpected weight loss

Everyone would be pleased to see the numbers on the scale go down a little bit, especially if you have been trying to lose some extra weight. However, if you end up seeing a sudden change in your weight that is not caused by a dieting program or workout schedule, you have to see a doctor. Unexpected weight loss is actually a common cancer symptom that many ignore due to potentially being happy with the lower number on the scale.

Dr. Anton Bilchik, MD, chief of gastrointestinal research and surgery professor at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says that a lot of the patients that visit him end up losing between 10 and 15 pounds before they come to talk to him.

He also mentioned that some of them don’t pay attention to it since they feel good about losing weight and only realize it is a problem when they continue losing weight they didn’t intend to. Sudden, significant weight changes are always signs of potentially dangerous medical conditions, so if you notice something like this, you should see a specialist immediately.

Read more about which common foods are known to be causing cancer here

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