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Major Signs of "Dangerous" Cancer, Say Experts

These are some of the biggest red flags for cancer.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Because the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted routine screenings, doctors are reporting that more cases of cancer are being diagnosed at later stages. It's important to be vigilant about COVID-19, but it's also crucial to maintain regular cancer screenings, and to be on the alert for potential signs of cancer that warrant a visit to the doctor's office. These are some of the biggest red flags for cancer. Any of them should be reported to your doctor ASAP. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

1

You May Lose Weight Unexpectedly

Feet standing on a scale.
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Many of us would consider losing weight without trying to be wish fulfillment. But weight loss without a clear reason can be a warning sign of cancer, especially if it's accompanied by loss of appetite or changes in bowel habits. Unexplained weight loss can signify cancer of the esophagus, liver, colon, and pancreas, as well as leukemia or lymphoma. It should always be discussed with your doctor right away.

2

You May Have a Nagging Cough

man face closeup with a sore throat, sick due to a virus, tired and overwhelmed
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For almost two years, coughing has been a symptom associated with COVID-19. And indeed, most coughs are a sign of a virus or common cold. But viruses only last for a few weeks at the maximum. A cough that just won't go away can be a sign of lung cancer. These days, if you have a lingering cough, get tested for COVID-19. Any cough that persists for more than two to four weeks should be evaluated by a physician. 

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3

You May Have Rectal Bleeding

upset woman in toilet by diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, piles
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Rectal bleeding can have many non-serious causes, including hemorrhoids or a tear in the skin called an anal fissure. But it can also be a sign of colon or rectal cancer. Blood in the toilet bowl or on toilet paper—whether it's light or dark—should always be reported to your doctor immediately. 

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4

You May Feel Bloated

woman bloated stomach
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Ovarian cancer is known as a "silent killer," because early detection is difficult—there is no routine screening test, and the first symptoms can be vague and easily overlooked. Warning signs include bloating, pain or pressure from the pubic bone to below the ribcage, or feeling full soon after eating. If you have ovaries, it's important to be alert to these potential symptoms. If they last longer than two weeks, a doctor's visit is warranted.

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5

Your Skin Might Change

woman worrying about her skin
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Any change in a mole or freckle could be a sign of skin cancer. Regular self-exams can lead to early detection of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, which can be life-saving. Remember ABCDE when doing skin self-exams, 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)

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6

You May Get New Headaches

Woman suffering from stress or a headache grimacing in pain as she holds the back of her neck with her other hand to her temple.
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Headaches have many causes, and most aren't a sign of cancer. Many of us have them on a regular basis. But usually, headaches have the same patterns. If you experience a kind of headache you've never had before, even if it's minor headache, it's worth giving your doctor a call. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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