Almost all women experience bloating at some point, especially during their period. But if the bloating continues after your cycle or you’re constantly constipated, it could be a symptom of ovarian or uterine cancer. If it’s been going on for several weeks without improvement, it’s not normal,” says Dr. Wender. See your doctor.” Many patients with ovarian cancer have had only vague symptoms, such as bloating; they ignored them for months before seeking help, says Dr. Moshe Shike of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Another sign of ovarian cancer is feeling full when your appetite has greatly decreased.
#4 Abnormal menstruation or pelvic pain
Irregular periods are fairly common. But if your bleeding increases month after month, if you bleed between periods, or if you have pelvic pain, ask your doctor to do a transvaginal ultrasound to rule out cancer of the uterus, ovaries or vagina.
#5 Chronic cough
We all have coughs that feel like we’re about to expel a lung. But if you start coughing for more than three weeks without any other cold or allergy symptoms (like a stuffy nose), it could be an early sign of lung cancer. Leukemia, too, can give symptoms that look like bronchitis or a bad chest cold. “If the cough is different from other times, persists or you cough up some blood, it needs to be addressed,” Dr. Markman says. Some patients with lung cancer have chest pain that goes up into the shoulder or down the arm.
#6 Stomach ache or nausea
An upset stomach is common. However, if you have persistent stomach cramps or feel nauseous all the time, see your doctor. It may just be an ulcer, but it could also be a symptom of leukemia, esophageal, liver, pancreatic or colorectal cancer.
#7 Frequent fever or infection
If you are quite healthy, but you are getting sick or have a fever more often, it could be an early sign of leukemia. This is a blood cancer that triggers the production of abnormal white blood cells, which undermine the body’s ability to fight infection by weakening the immune system. Watch for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains or fever that don’t go away.
#8 Difficulty swallowing
A sore throat can make swallowing difficult or painful, but if it persists for weeks or gets worse, see your doctor. This is a common sign of throat or stomach cancer, not to mention lung cancer.
You wake up with a bruise that surprises you – maybe you just bumped into it in the bathroom the night before. But if you start noticing frequent bruising, in strange places like on your fingers or hand, it’s alarming. These bruises may be a sign of leukemia, according to Cancer Treatment Centers in the United States. Over time, leukemia decreases the ability of the blood to carry oxygen and small clots form.
#10 Inexplicable weight loss
“Losing weight is a good thing for many North Americans – everyone is dieting! But if you lose your appetite when there are no events or problems to explain the change, consult,” Dr. Markman recommends. Weight loss or an unusual change in appetite can be a symptom of cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, liver or colon. It’s also a very common symptom of leukemia or lymphoma, Dr. Wender adds.
#11 Persistent fatigue
We all have low-energy days, but after a good night’s sleep or two, we’re back on track. If you feel tired every day for more than a month, or if you start to feel short of breath, seek help, recommends Dr. Wender. “Most of the time, we won’t find cancer, but get checked out, you never know.” Leukemia and lymphoma cause persistent fatigue.
#12 Chronic headaches
You are not a migraineur and rarely have headaches. But suddenly you start taking ibuprofen every day. This could be a symptom of a brain tumor, which causes headaches by pressing on the surrounding nerves.
#13 Blood in the stool
It’s probably benign, like hemorrhoids. But it can also be a sign of colon cancer. This cancer is increasingly common in people under 50, the age at which screening is recommended to begin. Dr. Wender is all for this screening. “It’s easy to convince yourself that it’s hemorrhoids or constipation. And then, when the problem is intermittent, people, especially young people, reassure themselves that it’s nothing serious. But blood in the stool is never normal. Get yourself checked.”
#14 Noticeable skin changes
Skin cancer has become the most common cancer in both Canada and the United States. It is one of the most difficult to recognize in its early stages, says Dr. Wender. “Diagnosis is not easy. People think their new freckles or pigment spots and moles are the same as before.” He recommends that you get checked if the mole becomes darker, enlarges or is raised. Melanomas are easier to identify because they are irregularly shaped, very dark or two different colors. “Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, but it can be deadly. Fortunately, many melanomas have a long period of time during which they are not invasive. They are easily cured, if caught early.”
#15 Oral ulcers
A herpes pimple or canker sore that heals very well should not worry you. But if it doesn’t heal, if you have pain, white or red spots on your gums and tongue, swelling or numbness in your jaw, you may be thinking about oral cancer. If these symptoms last longer than two weeks, the American Cancer Society suggests seeing the doctor.