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I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You Have "Deadly Cancer"

Doctors reveal symptoms that could indicate you have cancer.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S.–heart disease is the number one killer, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Each year in the United States, more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer, and nearly 600,000 die from it. The CDC also states, "The cost of cancer care continues to rise and is expected to reach almost $174 billion by 2020." Nobody wants to hear a cancer diagnosis, but it's much more treatable today than it was previously, especially if caught early. Eat This, Not That! Health talked with doctors who explained what signs of cancer to be aware of and how to help prevent getting cancer. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Signs of Cancer

The surprised girl holds a thermometer in her hands.

Dr. Yevgeniy Skaradinskiy, DO, medical oncology/hematology at Staten Island University Hospital lists a few signs that could indicate cancer and not to ignore. "Fever, night sweats, weight loss could be a sign of lymphoma. Unexplained thromboembolism and iron deficiency in geriatric patients could be an issue related to GI or GYN Unexplained Hematuria (blood in urine) can be a Genitourinary issue, which pertains to the genital and urinary systems. Unexplained headaches and focal neurological deficits could be a sign of a brain tumor or metastatic disease Unexplained jaundice are signs of biliary, liver, or pancreas cancer."


Unexplained Weight Loss

weight loss

Dr. Natasha Fuksina, MD Board certified in internal and obesity medicine, with functional medicine approach states, "When cancer spreads and metastases grow, cancer cells demand more energy for their metabolism than normal cells, therefore, a person burns more calories and loses weight. In addition, the burden of cancer cells may cause nausea and decreased appetite causing less food intake and aggravating weight loss. Weight loss can be seen with most cancers, such as pancreatic, colon, lung, ovarian, especially in advanced stages as the tumor burden increases."



Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

According to Dr. Fuksina, "Depression can accompany any cancer diagnosis. Fear for survival, side effects of chemotherapy, adjustments to daily activities all play a role in development of depression whether someone is just diagnosed or is already being treated for cancer. Cancers with worse prognosis, such as pancreatic or ovarian cancers cause more depressive symptoms. Cancers which are readily treatable and have good survival rates, especially when diagnosed early, such as breast, endometrial and prostate cancers, cause less depression."


Vaginal Bleeding

Woman with prostate problem in front of toilet bowl. Lady with hands holding her crotch, People wants to pee - urinary incontinence concept

"In healthy young women, monthly menstrual bleeding is a normal physiological occurrence, however, in certain circumstances vaginal bleeding can be a cause for concern," says Dr. Fuksina. "For example, in menopause, after periods stop,  vaginal bleeding can be a sign of uterine cancer. When abnormal cells grow in uterine lining (endometrium), they can cause abnormal vaginal bleeding and if a woman experiences this symptom, she should be evaluated by her doctor right away. Prior to menopause, if vaginal bleeding occurs in between periods or the flow changes, that also can signify cancer cell growth. Seeing a gynecologist promptly for an examination and a PAP smear is in order!"


Blood in Stool

man prostate cancer, premature, ejaculation, fertility, bladder problem

Dr. Fuksina states, "No blood belongs in one's poop ever! While benign causes such as bleeding hemorrhoids can be the explanation, no amount of blood in the stool should be dismissed as it can be a sign of colon or rectal cancer. Most colon cancers arise from polyps in the intestinal wall which may undergo cancerous transformation and cause bleeding. Amount of blood varies, from not visible to the naked eye (microscopic) to small amounts of blood and to large amounts. When anyone sees blood in their poop, they must see a doctor for a colonoscopy to look for colon cancer. The earlier it is detected the better the outcomes."



Pretty brunette coughing on couch at home in the living-room.

"Cough can be caused by many conditions and diseases: from simple bronchitis and asthma to covid, tuberculosis, and lung cancer," Dr. Fuksina explains. "Cough that is persistent beyond four weeks, especially in smokers and when accompanied by fevers, malaise, and weight loss, is a cause for concern – lung cancer must be suspected. When lung cancer grows in the lungs, it destroys normal lung tissue, causes cough and even trouble breathing. Seeing a physician promptly is necessary to undergo examination and testing to rule out lung cancer."


Cancer is Much More Treatable Today

Woman Receiving Radiation Therapy Treatments for Breast Cancer

Dr. Skaradinskiy says, "Cancer is more treatable because more screenings and awareness is available. Now tumors can be found at earlier stages and targetable mutations in tumors can be addressed with more available medications."

Dr. Fuksina adds, "With advances in technology and the institution of widely available screening methods, it is possible to diagnose cancers earlier and start treatments earlier. For example, regular mammograms allow for earlier diagnosis of breast cancers. Recently, scientific evidence led to a recommendation for an earlier age at first colonoscopy (at 45 not 50) to screen for cancerous polyps and colon cancer. In addition, more treatments have become available in recent years with surgeries, chemotherapy, repurposed drugs, and immunotherapy allowing for better treatments, outcomes, and survival."


How to Help Prevent Cancer

Doctor examining woman in hospital. Female patient listens to mammography technologist during survey. Explains importance of breast cancer prevention

"The best way to prevent cancer is by going for screenings, such as mammograms, GI endoscopy, and PAP smears," Dr. Skaradinskiy says. 


Lifestyle Choices that Increase the Risk of Cancer

Man eating pizza having a takeaway at home relaxing resting

Dr. Skaradinskiy reminds us that, "Certain lifestyle choices increase risks of cancer, consider smoking cessation, weight loss, change of eating habits, choice of food/schedule of eating, and exercises. These are options associated with reducing your risk." 

Dr. Richard Reitherman, MD, PhD, medical director of breast imaging at MemorialCare Breast Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA adds, "The best thing any of us can do to try to prevent cancer or other illnesses is to try to pursue a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating as much fresh food as possible, including fresh fruits and vegetables, and trying to keep processed foods to a minimum. Pursuing a normal weight is important to reduce risks for many diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It is also important to make it a priority to take steps toward managing stress.  Even simple things such as taking a walk or bike ride outdoors, or listening to music, can have a positive impact. While stress is a part of all of our lives, it can have a negative effect on our immune system, making it harder for our bodies to fight against illnesses, including cancer. It is also beneficial to know your personal risk factors.  Talk to your doctor about your own medical history, as well as any family history of cancer. Some people may benefit from genetic counseling, which may reveal a need for additional tests."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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