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Signs You're Getting One of the "Most Deadly" Cancers

Watch out for these signs of cancer, experts warn.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to, almost 2 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2021. "An estimated 281,550 women and 2,650 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, which makes it the most common cancer diagnosis. Prostate cancer is the leading cancer diagnosis among men and the second most common diagnosis overall with 248,530 expected cases. Lung and bronchus cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis with an estimated 235,760 new cases." While the data is alarming, early testing and screenings make a difference. In addition, paying attention to early signs is key in fighting cancer. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to medical experts who reveal cancer symptoms to watch 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.


Breast Cancer

Breast cancer self check

"Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in American women, affecting approximately 1 in 8 women, Elisabeth King, nurse practitioner and executive nursing director at City of Hope, a cancer research and treatment organization near Los Angeles, explains. "Fortunately, treatment is highly effective when breast cancer is identified early.  It is therefore very important for women to be attentive to changes in their breasts and to recognize the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.  A breast lump is the most common symptom.  Other symptoms of breast cancer may include skin dimpling; nipple retraction; skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened; nipple discharge; or swollen lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone."


Pancreatic Cancer

Woman suffering from stomach pain,laying in bed at home

Pancreatic cancer isn't detected early very often because it doesn't present symptoms until it spreads to other organs. Dr. Taylor Graber, an MD Anesthesiologist and owner of ASAP IVs, says"There is a phenomenon called "painless jaundice", which can be an ominous foreboding. It's one of the most significant symptoms that can go readily unnoticed. The biliary system breaks down red blood cells to make bilirubin, which transports them in the form of bile from the liver to the gallbladder to the bile ducts, through the pancreas, and out the ampulla of Vater into the duodenum, where it is excreted in stool.

As the pancreas develops a mass, this mass can impede the flow of bile from the liver to the stool. When this mass becomes big enough, there can develop a relatively fixed obstruction, which leads to an increase in direct and total bilirubin in the blood. When the serum bilirubin (can be tested from a peripheral blood chemistry test) exceeds 2.5-3 mg/dL, which leads to yellowing of the skin (jaundice) and yellowing of the sclera of the eyes (called scleral icterus). While there are other explanations for why this can develop, when these symptoms occur in the absence of abdominal pain, this can indicate the development of pancreatic adenocarcinoma (pancreas cancer)."

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Bone Pain

man with dark hair suffering from elbow pain outdoor

Dr. Graber states, "Bone pain in the middle of the night can be a troubling sign. While it is very possible that bone pain can be the result of a previous injury, such as a long bone fracture requiring surgical correction, bone pain, especially nocturnal bone pain (which is bone pain in the middle of the night), can be a sign of something more serious, such as cancer. There are many cancers which are predisposed to metastasis to the bone, such as renal (kidney cancer), breast cancer, or lung cancer. When these cancers spread to the bone, they can multiply and grow, and as part of their angiogenesis (the process of secreting local growth factors to encourage blood vessels to grow into and feed the cancer) they can literally starve the surrounding healthy tissue of blood flow and nutrients such as oxygen and glucose. The side effect of this local growth can be pain or weakness of the bone, leading to "pathologic" fractures, which means fractures in bones from traumatic forces which should not be strong enough to normally break a bone."

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Brain Cancer

Young frustrated woman working at office desk in front of laptop

An estimated 25,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancerous brain and spinal tumors, reports. Dr. Graber says, "headaches and nausea/vomiting can be a sign of brain tumors or metastatic tumors to the brain." Other signs include seizures, memory problems and weakness or a feeling of numbness on one side of the body. 

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Lung Cancer

Business man in glasses and warm clothes smoking cigarette on the street

Over half a million Americans have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their life, according to People who smoke have the greatest risk of contracting lung cancer, but it can also occur in someone who has never smoked before. Dr. Graber states, "coughing up blood (hemoptysis) can be a sign of lung cancer, or weight loss (which can be a sign of ANY cancer)." Additional symptoms of lung cancer include shortness of breath, a persistent cough that won't go away, chest pain and hoarseness. 


Prostate Cancer

Man suffering from back pain and kidney stones

Dr. Daniel Boyer, a doctor of medicine with a focus on medical research and specializing in molecular biology, histology, pharmacology, embryology, pathology, pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, gynecology, and obstetrics, says, "Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that affects the prostate glands in men. It is the second leading contributor of cancer deaths for most men in the United States. It normally develops when the rate of cell division exceeds the rate at which cells are dying in the prostate gland. Prostate cancer may not show any signs or symptoms during its early stages of development, however, some deviations from the normal body functioning may be an indication of developing prostate cancer soon. These early signs are known as prostate cancer risk factors. The most common prostate cancer risk factor is a change in the way a man urinates characterized by; difficulty in starting to urinate or emptying your bladder, a weaker flow of urine while urinating, dribbling urine after urinating, urge to urinate-especially at night, and an abrupt need to urinate. In addition, urine may start coming out even before reaching the bathroom." 


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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