Many cancers common in men have the same symptoms as other diseases or medical conditions. Men are also known to have a tendency to delay visits to the doctor…so it’s important to see a health care professional when you notice the following symptoms.
Difficulty urinating may indicate cancer in men
If you have frequent difficulty urinating or notice blood in your urine, see your doctor. You should also see a doctor if you notice blood in your semen or experience erectile dysfunction. These symptoms could indeed be signs of prostate cancer.
“Unfortunately, there are no symptoms of prostate cancer until the disease is aggressive,” says Moshe Shike, MD, a gastroenterologist at Memorial Sloan Kattering Cancer Center in New York City.
Dr. Shike says he frequently sees patients who are unaware of these symptoms for up to six months before they go to the doctor. The earlier you take control of your health, the better your chances of treating the disease in time. There is no need to change your entire lifestyle.
Testicular changes can also be a symptom of cancer in men
Just as women are aware of the shape and feel of their breasts, men should pay special attention to their testicles. If you notice any changes in the size of one or both testicles, consult a doctor. Also, if the testicles feel swollen or heavier than usual, or if you feel a lump, it could indicate testicular cancer, says Maurie Markman, M.D., an oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Visible changes to the skin
Men 50 and older are twice as likely as women to develop or die from skin cancer.
Men are targeted by 40% of melanoma cases, but 60% of fatal cases, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Why is this? A study conducted by the National Sun Protection Advisory Council found that men spend more time in the sun than women and are less likely to protect their skin with sunscreen. Men also have less hair to cover their scalp and ears, two areas of the body where cancer can develop. Finally, men visit their doctor less than women. As a result, cancers are not detected as quickly.
“It’s easy to miss the early signs of cancer,” laments Rich Wender, director of the American Cancer Society. Many people think that moles, acrochordons or spots on the skin are not unusual.”
If you notice a mole that changes color, size or lifts from the skin, see a doctor. When it’s a melanoma, the moles are irregularly shaped and darker. They may even contain multiple colors. “Melanomas are much less common than other skin cancers, but they are more serious and can be fatal,” says Dr. Wender. On the other hand, many melanomas are slow to develop and are relatively easy to treat if discovered early enough.”
A pain in the mouth
A cold sore that heals or a mild, temporary toothache after a visit to the dentist is probably nothing to be alarmed about. However, if you have pain that doesn’t go away, a cold sore that doesn’t seem to want to heal, red or white spots on your tongue or gums, or swelling or numbness in your jaw, these could be warning signs of oral cancer.
Men who smoke or chew tobacco are more likely to develop oral cancer, Dr. Markman says. “There are more men than women who smoke. Smokers and tobacco chewers need to be much more vigilant when it comes to pain or lesions that don’t heal in the mouth or lips,” he says.
A chronic cough may be a symptom of cancer
A cough that lasts more than three weeks, without other symptoms such as a cold or allergies, may be an early indication of lung cancer. Leukemia may also first announce itself as bronchitis. “If the cough is not usual and persists, or if you notice the presence or taste of blood, it’s very important to see a health care professional,” Dr. Markman says. Some lung cancer patients have also reported a chest pain that extends to the shoulder or even the arm.
Blood in the stool
This could just be hemorrhoids, but it could also be colon cancer. Tests for this type of cancer usually start around age 50, but more and more cases are appearing in younger people. That’s why you should see a doctor as soon as you notice something abnormal.
“It’s easy to overlook blood in the stool thinking it’s something benign, such as hemorrhoids or constipation, especially when the problem comes and goes. So people tend to reassure themselves, especially younger people,” says Dr. Wender. But blood in the stool is never normal. You need to see a doctor as soon as possible.”
Stomach pain or nausea
Small, everyday stomach aches are rarely warning signs of cancer. However, you should see a doctor if the pain is persistent or if you feel nauseous very often. It could be a simple ulcer, but it could also be a sign of leukemia. It could also be cancer of the esophagus, liver, pancreas or colorectal cancer.
Fever and frequent infections may also indicate cancer
If you are normally healthy, but feel sick and have a fever more often than usual, this could be a symptom of leukemia. This cancer causes the body to produce an abnormal level of white blood cells. This weakens the body’s ability to protect itself from infection and makes you sick more often. So be on the lookout for lingering flu symptoms.
Difficulty swallowing could hide throat cancer
A sore throat that persists for several weeks could indicate that you have throat cancer. These symptoms could also indicate lung or stomach cancer.
A little bruise here and there is nothing to worry about. However, if you notice that bruises appear for no apparent reason and often, especially in places where you shouldn’t be bumping into each other – a hand or finger, for example – seek medical attention.
Unusual bruising may be a sign of leukemia, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Over time, leukemia interferes with the oxygen supply to the blood, causing clots.
Unexplained weight loss
Weight loss is good news for most people. But if you have less appetite and are losing weight for no reason, you should see a doctor, Dr. Markman says.
Losing weight can be an effect of some types of cancer. These include cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, liver or colon. Weight loss can also be a common symptom of leukemia and lymphoma, adds Dr. Wender.
Everyone can run out of energy at one time or another. But if you are always tired or feel short of breath for no reason for more than a month, see a doctor. Leukemia and lymphoma are indeed causes of persistent fatigue.
“Most of the time, it’s not cancer. But you still need to watch these symptoms closely,” Dr. Wender says.
Fatigue isn’t necessarily related to disrupted sleep: here are medical reasons why you may be tired all the time.