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Here's the #1 Sign You Have Cancer, Say Physicians

Watch for these alarm bells.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

For all our awareness of cancer these days, the disease continues to be a primary killer of Americans, taking the lives of more than 600,000 people each year. Early detection continues to be the best bet for a good outcome, but are you as aware of the warning signs as you think? These are some of the most common symptoms of cancer, along with the one doctors say may be the most common—and dangerous (and what you can do about it). Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Bleeding When Using The Toilet

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

Bright red or dark red blood in the stool, or on toilet paper, should always be reported to your doctor immediately. Often, it's caused by hemorrhoids. But it can be a sign of colon or rectal cancer. Your doctor may recommend further testing, like a colonoscopy, to see what's going on.



Young woman suffers, writhes in abdominal pain lying on couch in living room at home interior

Bloating, pain or pressure from the pubic bone to below the ribcage that lasts more than two weeks are warning signs of ovarian cancer. You might also feel full soon after eating. This type of 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. 


New Lumps or Bumps

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Any new lumps or bumps you discover should be checked out by your doctor. Lumps that are cancerous tend to appear suddenly and are often painless. Lymph nodes may swell during an infection, but a swollen lymph node that doesn't go away warrants a call to the doctor.

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Nagging Cough

Blonde woman coughing.

In most cases, a nagging cough is a sign of a cold or virus. But a cough that lasts for more than a few weeks can be a sign of lung cancer. Any cough that persists for more than two to four weeks should be evaluated by a physician. 

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Unexpected Weight Loss


Losing weight without trying sounds like a great deal to many of us. But in reality, weight loss without 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. 

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No Symptoms At All

Happy mature woman admiring herself in the mirror

The most common sign of cancer is no sign at all. "For the most part, cancers are asymptomatic in early stages, which is why age-appropriate cancer screening is so important," says Bethany Malone, MD, a colon and rectal surgeon in Fort Worth, Texas. "It really does save lives!" Concurs Sreekanth Vasireddy, MD, a medical oncologist and hematologist at Arizona Oncology: "There is no common symptom with all cancers, hence the importance of recommended cancer screenings such as mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies, and low-dose CT chest for appropriate patients." Check in with your doctor on a regular basis, and follow their recommendations for routine cancer testing. You can see the American Cancer Society's guidelines for cancer screening here. 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.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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