World Cancer Day 2022: Warning signs of cancer you must keep an eye on

On this International Cancer Day 2022, let us learn all about the warning signs that can lea to early detection and prevent spread.

Early detection of cancer
Early detection of cancer cannot be underesitmated. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Ganesh Bakshi Updated on: 3 February 2022, 15:52 pm IST
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Cancer, also referred to as malignant tumours or neoplasm, is a generic term.
It is an abnormal growth of cells that lose the property to stop growing or die. Once they start multiplying, they form a mass of cells which may start outgrowing from the concerned organ, forming a detectable mass or causing some malfunction in the organ. This manifests in the form of clinical symptoms and signs related to the affected organ – breast, prostate, skin, blood, bowel, etc. It is a leading cause of death globally, and an increasingly common cause of death in India in the last few years. Knowing the signs of cancer is important.

There would be warning signs, as the process starts and goes along. In some cancers, there may not be any abnormal changes or complaints. The early diagnosis is made during routine annual health check-ups, for example, cervical swabs, blood PSA levels for prostate cancers. In certain cancers, there are vague signs like excess weight loss, making it difficult to zero in on any particular organ problem. Medical examinations, laboratory tests, and necessary imaging are needed to reach the final diagnosis. Many cancers produce specific symptoms that help doctors to make a fairly accurate diagnosis.

cancer signs
World Cancer Day is on February 4. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Warning signs of cancer could be

1. Oral changes

* Persistent sores, ulcers, lesions or painful areas in the mouth, especially in people who smoke or chew tobacco, can indicate various oral cancers.

* New onset change in voice and persistent hoarseness of voice could indicate laryngeal cancers.

* Breast changes like new onset lump, dimpling, nipple changes, or discharge. Sometimes, males can also suffer from breast cancer.

* Chronic persistent coughing, particularly a dry cough could be a sign of lung cancer. Some of those who have recent Covid-19 history also have a trail of cough.

* Difficulty in swallowing like the feeling of food getting stuck in your throat or painful swallowing for more than two weeks could be a sign of oesophagus, or stomach cancer.

2. Bloating and abdominal swelling

New-onset bloating for more than two weeks can be a sign of gallbladder, ovarian cancer, or gastrointestinal (GI) cancers.

signs of cancer
Be vigilant about signs. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Nausea and abdominal pain

Abdominal discomfort that lasts unusually long and is accompanied by backache may be a sign of liver, pancreatic, or GI cancers.

4. Alteration in bathroom habits

Significant changes can indicate colon, prostate, or bladder cancers and GI cancers. Warning signs include persistent constipation or diarrhea, black or red blood in your stool, black/ tarry stools, more frequent urination, and blood in your urine.

5. Abnormal periods and/or low back pain

Many women have the occasional irregular period or cramps. But persistent pain or changes in the menstrual cycle can indicate cervical, uterine or ovarian cancer. Postmenopausal bleeding also needs to be checked.

skin changes due to cancer
You may notice changes in skin. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

6. Skin changes

Changes in pre-existing mole / birthmark and newly appearing wart, red or black lesion is suspicious.

7. Chronic headache

If it lasts more than two weeks and one that doesn’t respond to the usual medications, it could be caused by a brain tumor.

8. Abnormal site lumps

Llymph nodal swellings around neck can be due to cancer.

Also Read: Never ignore these signs of thyroid cancer

Here are some other signs to watch out for:

Repeated fevers or infections are sign of blood cancers affecting the immune system of the body. Multiple bruising seen at unusual places without any trauma might also be seen. Severe and persistent fatigue despite adequate sleep or rest may be a warning sign.

The signs are also categorized as the early ones and the later or late ones. The early ones would surely serve as “the warning signs” and the late ones as the name suggests would lead to discovery of cancer in late stages, when it is advanced and incurable. This makes it critical for the early discovery of cancer through warning signs, whereby we can look at achieving cure or potential cure with prescribed evidence based treatments.

Sometimes apart from signs, self-examinations, especially in the case of breast and testicular cancers might detect abnormality. Those who are elderly, and have close relatives with cancer should always remain more vigilant. Thus, cancer warning signs are quite important and one should not hesitate to meet a doctor and solve the issue.

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About the Author
Dr Ganesh Bakshi Dr Ganesh Bakshi

Dr Ganesh Bakshi Consultant Uro oncologist P D Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Center

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