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Sure Signs You Have Cancer

Seven signs of cancer not to ignore, according to experts. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and while getting a cancer diagnosis is terrifying, it's no longer a death sentence in many cases thanks to routine screenings and advances in treatment. "In the past 20 years, from 2001 to 2020, cancer death rates went down 27%, from 196.5 to 144.1 deaths per 100,000 population," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early detection and knowing the signs of cancer can make the difference between life and death. Here's seven signs not to ignore. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Bathroom Habits that Change

man prostate cancer, premature, ejaculation, fertility, bladder problem

One sign that could indicate cancer is a change in bathroom habits. University of California San Francisco Health warns, "Significant changes in bodily functions can indicate colon, prostate or bladder cancer, among other cancers. Warning signs include persistent constipation or diarrhea; black or red blood in your stool; black, tarry stools; more frequent urination; and blood in your urine."


​​Breast Cancer Symptoms

breast cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers and is one of the most common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Each year in the United States, about 264,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,400 in men. About 42,000 women and 500 men in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer. Black women have a higher rate of death from breast cancer than White women. 

The CDC states, "Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.

Some warning signs of breast cancer are—

  • New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.

Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer."


Difficulty Swallowing

Sick women suffering from sore throat

"If you feel as though food is getting stuck in your throat or you have trouble swallowing for more than two weeks, this can be a sign of throat, lung or stomach cancer," the University of California San Francisco Health shares. 


Excessive Bruising

woman touches her bruised knee

Everyone gets a bruise now and then, but when it's reoccurring, that could be a sign of cancer. The University of California San Francisco Health says, "A bruise on the shin from bumping into the coffee table is normal. But suddenly getting a lot of bruises in unusual places that haven't been bumped can indicate various blood cancers."



Woman experiencing a bad headache

Everyone can feel exhausted, but fatigue is something that is completely different. If you never feel rested even after a good night's sleep, speak to your doctor. According to experts at John Hopkins, "This isn't fatigue similar to how you feel after a long day of work or play. Extreme fatigue that doesn't get better with rest can be an early sign of cancer. Cancer uses your body's nutrients to grow and advance, so those nutrients are no longer replenishing your body. This "nutrient theft" can make you feel extremely tired. There are lots of underlying causes of fatigue, many of them not cancer-related. If your symptoms are severe enough to affect your quality of life, call your doctor."


Consistent Fever

woman covered with plaid checking her body temperature while sitting in bed at her apartment

John Hopkins says, "Fever can be a common symptom of colds and the flu, and clears up on its own. Certain characteristics of recurring fever can foretell a possible cancer connection. You should pay particular attention if:

–A fever happens mostly at night.

–You have no other signs of infection.

–You experience night sweats."


Skin Changes

Young woman looking at birthmark on her back, skin. Checking benign moles.

It's important to pay attention to skin changes and the University of California San Francisco Health states, "A shift in the appearance of a mole or birthmark should be assessed by a health care provider, either in person or through a video visit. To remember which changes are cause for concern, use this easy mnemonic, ABCDE.

Asymmetry: One half of the mole or mark doesn't look like the other.

Border: The edges are irregular or blurred.

Color: It's varied or inconsistent, both black and brown.

Diameter: It's larger than the size of a pencil eraser.

Evolving: This refers to any mole that grows, bleeds or otherwise changes over time."

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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