Most of us know the stereotypical signs of cancer, such as a change in the appearance of a mole, a lump in the breast, persistent coughing, or sudden weight loss.
But there are other symptoms that we don’t think of as pointing to cancer. We might chalk them up to something else. And it’s likely we would do nothing about them, allowing the cancer to grow and become less treatable.
Here are five surprising signs of cancer you should never ignore:
1. “Early satiety” or feeling full quicker than normal. If you start consistently to feel full sooner than usual while eating, don’t ignore it. It may indicate simple treatable conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or a peptic ulcer. But it could indicate a more serious problem, such as pancreatic cancer.1
2. Fever longer than three days. Most fevers are a signal your body is fighting an infection like a cold or flu. But a persistent fever longer than three days, especially if your temperature is 103 degrees or higher, indicates a potential serious illness.2
Lymphomas and leukemia are known to cause prolonged fevers.
Any persistent fever needs to be checked out by your doctor.
3. Swollen leg or foot. Edema or swelling is caused by fluid collecting under the skin and outside of the blood circulatory system. It can be caused by many things… Anything from an insect bite to heart issues.
But if you have persistent swelling for no known reason, it can indicate kidney, liver, or ovarian cancer.3 Chances are it’s not cancer. But you should check with your doctor to make sure.
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4. Unexplained fatigue. Fatigue from cancer is not like ordinary tiredness. A good night’s sleep doesn’t help cancer fatigue. Cancer patients describe it as “whole body tiredness.” It is overwhelming. It can be so severe that it becomes impossible to do everyday activities.
Be especially alert if you experience fatigue with weight loss. This may mean cancer is robbing your body of nourishment. Some cancers secrete substances known as cytokines which can cause fatigue. 4
5. White patches in the mouth. If you can’t brush away a white spot in your mouth and you haven’t had an injury, it could indicate leukoplakia. This is a pre-malignant lesion. Smoking and chewing tobacco are associated with this type of lesion. See your doctor if the spot doesn’t disappear in a few days.
It’s important to keep track of what your body is telling you. It could be the difference between cancer sneaking up on you or catching it early.
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In Good Health,
Executive Director, INH Health Watch