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Alarming Signs of a Cancer Problem, Say Experts

Doctors explain serious symptoms to watch out for that could indicate cancer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the world. But survival rates are improving for many types of cancer, thanks to improvements in cancer screening, treatment and prevention." While that's amazing news, early detection of cancer is key so it's important to pay attention to signs our bodies give us and consult a doctor if symptoms persist. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to cancer specialists who explained a few alarming signs of cancer to look out for. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Lump in Your Breast

Nurse Assisting Patient Undergoing Mammogram

Dr. Katherine Lampen-Sachar, breast radiologist at Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida says, "Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms for breast cancer can be non-specific. First, any new breast lumps should be evaluated by your doctor to determine what kind of breast imaging would be best (mammography and/or ultrasound). The good news is that there are a lot of benign (non-cancer) causes of breast lumps/masses. Any new lump/mass in the axilla area should also be evaluated."


Nipple Discharge

Female doctor analyzing mammography results on x-ray.

Dr. Lampen-Sachar explains. "We take unilateral nipple discharge seriously, particularly when it is bloody/brown or clear. That symptom should be brought to your doctor's attention as well. Interestingly, white or milky nipple discharge is a benign finding. Any new changes to the nipple should prompt investigation with breast imaging. We look for new nipple inversion (chronic long standing nipple inversion is usually OK), visible skin changes to the nipple areolar complex. These can be signs of underlying breast cancer."

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Discoloring of the Breast

Mammography Result

Dr. Lampen-Sachar states, "New onset of diffuse skin thickening usually accompanied by a change in color of the breast skin should warrant prompt investigation with breast imaging. Some patients may see that the skin appears more porous, which we refer to as peau d'orange, and we take these new skin changes seriously. We always recommend that patients perform monthly breast examinations on themselves. Everyone's breasts feel different, and it is important to know what each person's 'normal' is so that they are able to detect small changes. For example, some patients may describe seeing a tiny area of skin dimpling that appeared from one breast exam to another. This finding should prompt investigation with breast imaging to make sure that there is no small underlying mass."

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Vaginal Bleeding

Hands of young woman on stomach as suffer from female diseases

Dr. John Diaz, chief of gynecologic oncology at Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida says, "A 2013 study completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that most women do not know the signs of gynecological cancer. Participants were provided a list of symptoms and asked what symptoms would concern them most and what could be the cause. Women were most concerned about unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge, pain or pressure in the pelvic area and changes to the skin of the vulva. But they only said the first two signs might be cancer symptoms. Signs and symptoms are not the same for everyone, and each gynecologic cancer has its own signs and symptoms. One of the most common symptoms women notice is abnormal vaginal bleeding. You should also see a doctor if you have any other warning signs that last for two weeks or longer and are not normal for you. Symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see a doctor. 

Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge

  • It is important to tell your doctor if you are bleeding between periods or after sex. Bleeding between your usual monthly cycle can be due to many different reasons, but it can be a symptom of gynecologic malignancies
  • If you are bleeding after menopause, it is not normal and you should be checked right away.
  • If you have not yet gone through menopause but notice that your periods are heavier, last longer than normal for you, or if you're having unusual bleeding between periods, talk to your doctor.
  • Along with bleeding, people can also experience unusual vaginal discharge as a symptom of many gynecologic
  • Uterine cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Vaginal cancer"


        Feeling Full Too Quickly or Difficulty Eating and Bloating

        woman bloated stomach

        Dr. Diaz states, "If you are feeling full after eating less than normal, you should be checked by your doctor. This can be a sign of ovarian cancer. Women are natural bloaters. But if you have been bloated for multiple weeks in a row, or if your bloating is paired with another cancer symptom, it is time to seek medical help. Constant bloating is most commonly a sign of ovarian cancer".

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        Pelvic and or Abdominal Pain or Pressure


        "Pain is often an early symptom of cancer," Dr. Diaz explains. "Ovarian cancer is heavily linked to back and abdominal pain. Pelvis pain or pressure is found in many patients with uterine (endometrial) cancer. Pain from cancer can also mean that the cancer has metastasized (spread). It is important if you have pain in the same location for more than four weeks to make an appointment to see your doctor." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

        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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