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The #1 Sign Your Cancer Risk is "Dangerously High"

Here's what to watch for.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Cancer may have vague symptoms at first, which can be confused with other less serious conditions. But doctors say there are some symptoms that are the equivalent of alarm bells; they warrant a call to the doctor ASAP. Here is what's likely the #1 sign that your risk of cancer is dangerously high, along with other common symptoms you should always be on the lookout for. 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.


Change in Body Functions


Be alert to any changes in the way your body functions, says Anne Marie Lennon, a gastroenterologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. These can include: Sudden constipation or diarrhea; difficulty passing urine or stool; or the feeling of an incomplete bowel movement. These symptoms may indicate cancer, or they may be caused by other conditions. If they last for more than a couple of weeks, doctors say it's best to get them checked out. Read on for more potential symptoms of cancer that experts say you should be aware of.



Blood scurvy in a bubble on the toothbrush

"Doctors consider certain types of bleeding more indicative of cancer than others," says Lennon. These include blood in your stool, abnormal vaginal bleeding, coughing up blood, or blood in the urine. These signs can all be caused by other conditions other than cancer, but experts say it's a good idea to consult your doctor if you experience them.


Nagging Cough or Shortness of Breath

Blonde woman coughing.

In most cases, a persistent 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—or ongoing shortness of breath—should be evaluated by a physician. 


Skin Changes

Mature woman inspecting her skin in front of the bathroom mirror.

Any changes to a mole or freckle can be suspicious for skin cancer, and changes to your skin color can also signify cancer. The National Cancer Institute advises being on the lookout for the following: A flesh-colored lump that bleeds or turns scaly; a new mole or a change in an existing mole; a sore that doesn't heal; or yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.


Unexplained Weight Loss

weight loss

About 40 percent of people with cancer experience weight loss without an attributable reason as an early symptom, the American Society of Clinical Oncology says. Unexplained weight loss can signify cancer of the esophagus, liver, colon and pancreas, as well as leukemia or lymphoma, especially if it's accompanied by loss of appetite or changes in bowel habits. It should always be reported to your doctor right away. 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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