Back pain. Indigestion. Frequent urination. You might think that these are minor health problems that don’t require a doctor’s examination. But think again.
Cancer symptoms are often vague. In fact, prostate cancer – the most common cancer in men – has the least symptoms.
“Men should not neglect their health,” said Therese Bevers, MD, MD, director of the Cancer Prevention Center. “It is important to be informed, to pay attention to changes in the body, and to immediately inform the doctor about any unusual symptoms.”
Knowing what the symptoms are can help your doctor catch cancer early, when it’s most treatable.
Bevers shares some of the most common cancer symptoms in men.
An abnormal lump. Have you recently experienced lumps or bumps under your skin? It can be a sign of cancer. Lumps are usually found in soft tissues such as breasts, testicles, lymph nodes, tendons, and ligaments. What to do: Tell your doctor right away, especially if it’s just found or enlarged.
Changes in your testicles. Have you noticed a change in the size of your testicles, or have one or both of your testicles become larger? Maybe you’ve found a lump, or your testicles seem swollen and hard. Any of these symptoms should get you to a doctor right away. Testicular cancer is more common in young and middle-aged men.
Changes in your bathroom habits. Suddenly needing to use the bathroom all the time? Or does it hurt to go? It can be a sign of bladder or prostate cancer. Other symptoms to look out for are blood in the urine or stool. Changes in your bowel patterns, such as constipation and diarrhea, don’t go away.
Changes in your skin. If you work outside for long hours or have a history of sunburn, get your skin checked. What you think is a sign of hard work may be skin cancer. Look for unusual bleeding, scaling, or sores that won’t heal. Other symptoms include bags, as well as moles and freckles that change in color, size, or shape. Bottom line: If you have a strange spot on your skin, see your dermatologist.
Indigestion or difficulty swallowing. Do not ignore a long burning pain in the throat or chest – even if you suspect that it is due to eating spicy food. Don’t assume that frequent indigestion and swallowing are a normal part of aging. It can be a sign of cancer of the esophagus, stomach or throat.
Constant coughing or hoarseness. Do you have a cough? If it continues for more than three weeks, it is a sign that something is wrong. Whether you smoke or not, a cough can be a sign of lung cancer. Frequent hoarseness, shortness of breath, and coughing up blood are signs of urgent medical attention.
Changes in your mouth. If you smoke, chew, dip, or spit, be aware of changes in your mouth. White spots inside the mouth or white spots on the tongue can be precancerous. If left untreated, these areas can turn into oral cancer. Sores, unexplained bleeding, numbness, or tenderness around the mouth, such as the tongue, lips, or cheeks, are signs that it’s time for you to get checked out.
Unexplained weight loss. Are you losing weight without changing your diet or exercise? Call your doctor, even if you think you need to lose weight. Losing ten or more pounds for no apparent reason can be a sign of pancreatic, stomach, esophagus, or lung cancer.
Constant fatigue. Are you tired of playing with your kids? Or hanging out with the guys after work? Are you always tired no matter how much you rest? Don’t throw it away. Constant fatigue can be a symptom of leukemia, colon or stomach cancer.
Constant pain. Back pain, headaches that don’t go away, abdominal or stomach pain – your doctor should know. “No pain, no benefit” does not apply to cancer. Persistent pain, regardless of location, can be the first sign that something is wrong.
Remember that having one or more of these symptoms does not mean you have cancer. But if they persist, you should get checked out.