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Warning Signs You're Getting Cancer, According to Doctors

These symptoms could very likely be the Big C.

The dreaded "C" word is something no one wants to hear their doctor say. While cancer is terrifying, it's crucial to catch this disease early to increase chances of survival and stop the growth or spread in its tracks. Learning about a few signs that you've developed cancer is one way to be proactive about catching this disease early. Review these 8 signs you have cancer so you can take them seriously and catch this dreaded disease early. As for our current pandemic: Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


Lumps and Swelling in Lymph Nodes

Swollen Lymph Nodes

When your body is fighting off a cold, flu, or other sickness, the lymph nodes in your neck and armpits might swell or look enlarged. This is perfectly normal and a sign that your body is working overtime to try and kill the illness quickly. However, swelling in your lymph nodes should go away in a couple of weeks and if they remain swollen or develop lumps, it's a sign that something else may be wrong.

The Rx: According to Dr. Adrian Bloor from The Christie Private Care, "If you discover a new lump or swelling which does not go away after a few days, then the recommendation is to seek medical attention so that it can be thoroughly assessed. It could be an early indicator of blood cancer." Your swollen lymph nodes could be nothing, but it could also be a sign of lymphoma, leukemia, or myeloma.


Blood in Your Stool

hand of a woman closing the lid of a toilet

Seeing blood in your stool can be scary and it's important to take note if you see any red when you go to the bathroom. Blood in your stool could be due to a number of ailments, some of which aren't very serious. However, it could also be an indication of colon cancer. 

The Rx: According to Dr. Mache Seibel, "Of course you can have blood in your stool for instance because you have a fissure or a crack in the tissues around your rectum or from a hemorrhoid or from ulcerative colitis or many other kinds of diseases. Blood is just a warning sign; it's not a guarantee of cancer." However, Johns Hopkins Medicine confirms that obvious bright red blood in the stool or darker bowel movements that indicate blood should be investigated for potential colon cancer. Go see your doctor if you see blood in your stool so colon cancer can be ruled out.

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Hoarse Voice That Won't Go Away

woman experiencing strong throat ache

If you had too much to drink the night before, rode some roller coasters, or saw your favorite band, a hoarse voice is explainable. Recovering from a cold or other sickness may also cause you to deal with a hoarse voice for a few days. However, if your voice unexplainably becomes hoarse and this hoarseness lasts for several weeks, it may be a sign of larynx cancer. 

The Rx: According to Dr. Dale Ekbom, M.D. from the Mayo Clinic, "When hoarseness lasts more than two weeks, the list of potential causes grows much larger." He mentions cancer of the larynx as a possible explanation of long-term hoarseness and states that when "detected early, vocal cord cancer can often be successfully treated with surgery or radiation." Your hoarseness may be related to a lingering sickness or a simple irritation of your vocal cords, but it's best to get it checked out if it persists.



Jaundice patient with yellowish discoloration of skin in comparison with Normal Skin color.

Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that may cause itchiness and irritation or may not be felt at all. The skin turns yellow when your bile duct is blocked by a tumor and a yellow pigment called bilirubin builds up in the system. Jaundice may be treatable through medication or surgery. 

The Rx: However, it's the cause of the jaundice that's concerning. According to a study reviewed by Dr. Peter Saul, "Approximately half of patients are diagnosed with a tumor within the head of the pancreas and many of these will present with jaundice." If your skin takes on a yellowish tint, it's best to see your doctor right away to ensure you don't have pancreatic cancer.

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A Skin Growth on Your Head or Neck

Woman checks the thyroid gland with her hands, keeps her palms on the neck.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), about two million Americans every year are diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer. Catching this type of skin cancer early is crucial to stop it from spreading. The good news is this type of skin cancer grows slowly but the bad news is it's easily mistaken for a pimple or scar.

The Rx: The AAD warns that basal cell carcinoma "often develops on the head or neck and looks like a shiny, raised, and round growth." If you see any abnormal skin growths or irritations that look like this, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. While this growth may be nothing, it could indicate basal cell carcinoma, and if caught early, it's a simple procedure to get it removed.

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Vertigo illness concept. Man hands on his head felling headache dizzy sense of spinning dizziness,a problem with the inner ear, brain, or sensory nerve pathway.

Seizures are serious and scary and if you experience one, you should seek emergency medical treatment and consult with your doctor about the cause. In some instances, a seizure may be a result of a brain tumor or growth, which could be cancerous. 

The Rx: According to Dr. Jessica W. Templer, MD from Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, "Patients may not be aware that seizures are a consequence of their brain tumor. The seizures caused from brain tumors are complex and different for each patient depending on the type and location of the tumor." Your seizure could indicate an abnormal glucose level or a benign tumor but it's best to seek treatment right away to find out if brain cancer was the cause of your episode.

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A Single and Hard Breast Lump

Breast cancer self check

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. Early detection is key to stopping the spread of breast cancer. Lumps and bumps on your breast tissue are signs that cancer might be growing. However, the professionals at Stony Brook Cancer Center's Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center state, "Most breast lumps—80% of those biopsied —are benign (non-cancerous)." 

The Rx: While most lumps and bumps aren't cancerous, it's important to look out for single, hard lumps on your breasts. These medical professionals warn that "most malignant tumors appear first as single, hard lumps or thickenings that are frequently, but not always, painless." If you see any bumps, thickenings, or abnormalities, consult with your doctor and get a mammogram right away.

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White or Gray Patches in Your Mouth

woman breathing with her mouth open

You might find white patches in your mouth as an irritation from food, braces, dentures, or a retainer. However, if you notice thickened areas in your mouth that are white or gray and can't be scraped off, it's possible you've developed leukoplakia, which is a tissue change that may be precancerous.

The Rx: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 657,000 new oral cancer cases developed in the world each year. If you're a tobacco user, frequently drink alcohol, or live an unhealthy lifestyle, you're more likely to develop a form of oral cancer. Your leukoplakia may be treatable and not lead to oral cancer but only if it's caught early. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Kelly Hernandez
Kelly Hernandez is a health and wellness writer and certified personal trainer. Read more about Kelly
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