Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for
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Cancer describes what happens when abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. This process can be hard to thwart if it’s left untreated. Early symptom detection is key to improving your odds of survival.
However, symptoms of cancer can be wide-ranging and non-specific, meaning they often slip under the radar.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a lump or area of thickening that can be “felt” under the skin is a “general” sign of cancer to look out for.
Indeed, “persistent lumps or swelling in any part of your body should be taken seriously”, says Cancer Research UK.
“That includes any lumps in the neck, armpit, stomach, groin, chest, breast or testicle.”
What could it be?
Lumps are associated with a number of cancers and the location of the lump is a giveaway.
According to the NHS, swelling on the side of the neck, armpit or groin that does not go down can signal non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system.
A breast lump can be a sign of something serious like breast cancer, warns the NHS.
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According to the health body, lumps in the testicles can be a sign of testicular cancer.
“This is easier to treat if it’s found early,” it says.
General signs of cancer include:
- Weight changes, including unintended loss or gain
- Skin changes, such as yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin, sores that won’t heal, or changes to existing moles
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Persistent cough or trouble breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent indigestion or discomfort after eating
- Persistent, unexplained muscle or joint pain
- Persistent, unexplained fevers or night sweats
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising.
How to respond
The Mayo Clinic says: “Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that concern you.”
The health body continues: “If you don’t have any signs or symptoms, but are worried about your risk of cancer, discuss your concerns with your doctor.
“Ask about which cancer screening tests and procedures are appropriate for you.”
How to reduce your risk of cancer
There is currently no preventative measure you can take against cancer but you can modify your risk.
Research shows that things such as stopping smoking and keeping a healthy weight can reduce the risk of cancer.
Not smoking is the best thing you can do to reduce your risk of cancer.
Cancer Research UK explains: “Harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke affect the entire body, not just our lungs. If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is quit.”
You should also aim to have plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain foods high in fibre and healthy proteins, says the charity.
“Cut down on processed and red meat, alcohol and high calorie foods and drinks.”
In fact, processed meat has been shown to directly cause bowel cancer.
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