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Top Ten Symptoms to Check for Cancer

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January 25 2015

Posted in: Tips,

Be Aware of the Top Ten Symptoms to Check for Cancer.

By Sarah Young,
OICC Programs & Outreach Coordinator.

Cancer, there is that word again. These days we are seeing it in the media and knowing it personally with increasing frequency. What can be frightening to consider is the large number of people who are diagnosed at a late stage without warning. None of us are immune to the possibility of a cancer diagnosis, and while a family history can be a cause for concern, the majority of cancers are not genetically linked. With this in mind, and not to create undue anxiety, it is important and empowering to be aware of some of the signs and symptoms that may be an early warning signal for cancer.

Breast Changes

The presence of hard nodular lumps, particularly if new and painless, are likely benign, however these could also indicate the possibility of something more serious. Other things to look for that are not frequently mentioned, includes unexpected red rashes on one or both breasts, thickening of the skin, and discharge from the nipples. Book in with your GP or naturopathic doctor (ND) to get this checked on.


While often due to digestive issues, bloating, in rare cases, can be a sign of ovarian cancer, and not just gas in the intestines. We do not often associate bloating with cancer of the reproductive system, and unfortunately, ovarian cancer is often caught in its late stages. New and unexplained bloating should be assessed by a specialist. Make sure to request blood work and an ultrasound.

Changing Lymph Nodes

If you notice new swellings or changes to lymph nodes in your arms, neck or groin area this is often associated with infection. However, if unaccompanied by any fever, and persistent, it could be a sign of lymphoma or other cancer.

Fevers and Infections

If you are getting sick frequently or having infections that are out of the ordinary, go in for further testing to rule out leukemia or other possible blood disorders.

Mouth Changes

If you notice white patches inside your mouth (otherwise known as leukoplakia), this could be an early harbinger of mouth cancer. Catching mouth cancer in its early stages is essential to successful treatment. Make sure to see your dentist as soon as possible if you see this.

Persistent Cough

Nagging coughs could well be the result a cold or influenza, but if it lasts more than a few weeks, further testing should be done to rule out lung cancer. Any sign of blood in the phlegm, should also be followed up on. Catching a cancer if present in its early stages means better outcomes are achievable ideally with curative surgery.

Persistent and Frequent Bruising

If this starts to occur and the bruises take a long time to go away this is a possible sign of a blood borne cancer such as lymphoma having an impact on your platelet production.

Skin Changes

Abnormal moles and scaling or bleeding on the skin are all worth investigating. Significant changes in colour, texture, shape and size of moles all should be explored; ideally with a dermatologist. Such skin changes can indicate melanoma, and catching it early is critical to curative treatment whereas letting this go can lead to an aggressive form of cancer. Fair skinned people with a history of sun or tanning bed exposures are at higher risk for melanoma.

Unexplained Weight Loss

Sudden, rapid and unexplained weight loss is an indication that something is not right in your body, particularly where no weight loss program was initiated.  Losing ten pounds in a month without changing your diet or exercise routine can be a sign of cancer, and warrants a visit with your GP or ND.

Unusual appearance of bleeding in the stool or urine

Occurrences such as this, particularly if repeated; need to be brought to the attention of your family physician and naturopathic doctor. While quite possibly not serious, it could still be an indication of a malignancy in the kidney, bladder, uterus or gastrointestinal tract. Unexpected vaginal bleeding or spotting including abdominal and/or pelvic pain are also a possible sign of ovarian or colon cancer, and should be checked out.

An awareness of signs and symptoms can provide you with guidance on possible early warning signals associated with cancer. Most times these occurrences do not mean cancer has taken root, however there may be other issues that need addressing. The bottom line is that it is better to be proactive than not; better reassured than worried. And, if there is cancer diagnosed, there is a greater chance you have caught it early and it can be removed or treated more effectively.  Evaluation with your primary care physician and naturopathic doctor makes a lot of sense in both health promotion and early diagnosis. Also important are to follow recommendations for screening of breast and colorectal cancer through imaging and colonoscopy starting in the late 40s or early 50s.


Leeshin said:

thank you for such an useful blog.

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