In a recent survey, British researchers found that most people don’t take cancer warning signs seriously. That’s a big deal considering that in 2012 alone, there were 14 million new cancer diagnoses and 8.2 million people around the world died from cancer. In the next two decades, doctors expect the number of new cancer diagnoses to increase by about 70 percent globally, with over 60 percent of those cases occurring in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.
Learning to recognize cancer’s early warning signs can be one of the most important things you can do for your health. While early warning signs don’t always indicate cancer, they can often indicate other, less serious conditions that nevertheless require treatment. And, when cancer is present, early detection is the key to achieving a full recovery.
Survey Respondents Ignore Cancer Warning Signs
For the survey, researchers from University College London asked 1,724 people aged 50 or older to verify whether or not they had experienced 17 symptoms, of which 10 are considered cancer warning signs. The symptoms on the list included:
- Changes in the appearance of a mole
- Unexplained, persistent cough
- A change in bowel habits
- Trouble swallowing
- New, explained lumps or bumps
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained bleeding
The researchers did not tell the survey respondents which of these symptoms are considered early warning signs of cancer, wanting to see if the respondents were able to recognize cancer warning signs on their own. The researchers also asked survey respondents what, in their opinion, caused the symptoms, whether the symptoms seemed serious to them, and whether they saw a doctor because of the symptoms.
Alarmingly, only two percent of the respondents correctly identified their symptoms as possibly being related to cancer, but 53 percent of the respondents said they had experienced at least one symptom that could be indicative of cancer during the previous three months. The most common unrecognized cancer warning signs were persistent coughing and lasting changes in bowel habits. Difficulty swallowing and unexplained weight loss were the least common unrecognized cancer signs.
Lead study author, Dr. Katrina Whitaker, was most shocked to discover that the majority of survey respondents did not even recognize what she considered the most obvious symptoms of possible cancer, including the appearance of new lumps or bumps or a change in the appearance of a mole. However, survey respondents did, at least, seem to be aware that cancer warning signs were serious, and 59 percent of those who experienced them reported visiting a doctor as a result.
Cancer Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore
While a variety of different symptoms can be warning signs of cancer, they may also indicate other conditions. In the majority of cases, in fact, symptoms that could indicate cancer actually turn out to indicate another condition. If you develop any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor right away. Even if your diagnosis isn’t cancer, you most likely still need medical treatment. If your doctor prescribes a medication you can’t afford, save money by filling your prescriptions online atCanadaDrugPharmacy.com.
Important cancer warning signs can vary somewhat according to gender, but there are also some signs that are important for both genders to be aware of.
Both men and women should be on the alert for any of the following possible cancer signs:
- A nagging cough.A cough that lasts more than three or four weeks, especially when accompanied by bloody mucus or shortness of breath, could be a sign of lung cancer.
- Pain.Unexplained pain that doesn’t go away after at least a month could be a sign of cancer, especially metastasized cancer. Abdominal pain, especially when accompanied by depression, could indicate pancreatic cancer.
- Fever.An unexplained fever that doesn’t go away could indicate blood cancer.
- Fatigue.Tiredness that affects your everyday life and persists no matter how much sleep you get could indicate cancer.
- Unexplained weight gain or loss.Unexplained weight gain of more than five or ten pounds could indicate cancer, and so could unexplained weight loss.
- Skin changes.These can include changes in the appearance of a mole, but also include lesions, spots, bumps, or lumps.
- Difficulty swallowing.Especially when accompanied by weight loss or vomiting, trouble swallowing could mean throat or stomach cancer.
- Blood in stool or urine.Bloody stool is often a symptom of hemorrhoids, but it could also indicate colon cancer, and bloody urine could mean a UTI or cancer of the kidneys or bladder.
- Lymph node swelling.Most lymph node swelling just means you’re fighting an infection, but if it lasts longer than two to four weeks, see a doctor.
For women, cancer warning signs to look out for include:
- Changes in your breasts.These can include flakiness or scaling of the nipple, nipple discharge, or dimpling on the skin of the breast.
- Irregular vaginal bleeding.Bleeding that occurs outside of your regular menstrual cycle, or any bleeding after menopause, is a bad sign.
- Vaginal discharge.While most often a sign of an infection, vaginal discharge could also indicate cervical cancer, especially if it contains blood.
- Bloating.Ovarian cancer can have ambiguous symptoms including feelings of abdominal bloating, pelvic pain, low back pain, unexplained weight gain, a change in bathroom habits, or a sensation that you need less food to feel full when you eat.
Among men, cancer signs to watch out for include:
- Urinary trouble.Needing to pee more often than normal, having trouble peeing, or experiencing leaking, dribbling, or increased urgency to pee.
- Testicular changes.Lumps or other changes in the testicles, including swelling or a feeling of heaviness, can indicate testicular cancer, for which early treatment is required.
- Breast changes.Men can get breast cancer, although it’s more common in women. The symptoms of breast cancer in men are the same.
According to a recent survey, most people don’t take the early warning signs of cancer seriously enough. Don’t blow off symptoms that could indicate something seriously wrong with your health. If you’re having symptoms that could indicate cancer, see a doctor right away.