The Signs of Cancer

woman with covered face

Cancer is a six-letter word that means many things, the disease itself, hope, pain, life, and death. It is the 2nd greatest killer of men and women in the world. Defeating this dreaded disease requires prevention, early detection, and proper medical care. Oddly enough, many forms of cancer do not initially cause pain. If you wait for signs of discomfort, you will harm your chances of recovery. But how do you know if you have cancer? The National Cancer Institute issued the following list of symptoms that cancer may cause:

Breast changes

•    Lump or firm feeling in your breast or under your arm

•    Skin that is itchy, red, scaly, dimpled, or puckered

Bladder changes

•    Trouble urinating

•    Pain when urinating

•    Blood in the urine

Bleeding or bruising, for no known reason

Bowel changes 

•    Blood in the stools

•    Changes in bowel habits

Cough or hoarseness that does not go away

Eating problems

•    Pain after eating (heartburn or indigestion that doesn’t go away)

•    Trouble swallowing

•    Belly pain

•    Nausea and vomiting

•    Appetite changes

Fatigue that is severe and lasts

Fever or night sweats for no known reason

Mouth changes

•    A white or red patch on the tongue or in your mouth

•    Bleeding, pain, or numbness in the lip or mouth

Neurological problems

•    Headaches

•    Seizures

•    Vision changes

•    Hearing changes

•    Drooping of the face

Skin changes

•    A flesh-colored lump that bleeds or turns scaly

•    A new mole or a change in an existing mole

•    A sore that does not heal

•    Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)

Swelling or lumps anywhere such as in the neck, underarm, stomach, and groin

Weight gain or weight loss for no known reason


Most Common Cancers and Prevention

For women, the top five cancers are lung, breast, colon, pancreas, and ovary. By 20, women should have a clinical breast exam every one to three years and annually after age 40. Men have a similar top five cancer list, including lung, prostate pancreas, liver, and colon. Men should be getting checked for prostate cancer at age 50 but should go in at 40 if there is a family history of this cancer. 

Knowing your family history is helpful, but only 5-10% of all cancer cases are due to genetics. The most significant cause of cancer, a whopping 90-95%, is due to environment and lifestyle factors. The use of tobacco products, poor nutrition, heavy alcohol use, obesity, low levels of activity, and exposure to toxic pollutants contribute to a higher chance of cancer. Preventative care, self-examinations, limited exposure to environmental pollutants, physical activity, a healthy diet, no tobacco use, and avoidance of processed foods diminish a person’s chances of cancer. Theoretically, many cancer-related deaths are preventable.

Getting Support

If you are fighting cancer and need help, many support groups are available online, via the phone, or face-to-face. Here are some ways to find groups near you:

•    Call your local hospital and ask about its cancer support programs

•    Do an online search for groups

•    Go to the NCI database Organizations that Offer Cancer Support Services for suggestions


If you have lost someone to Cancer, I invite you to read, “The Proper Way to Mourn.” 







Contributed by Angelica Mecham