What Are the Early Signs of Cancer?

November 6, 2018

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Thomas Bauer, M.D. contributes to topics such as Cancer Care.

By Erica Florentine

Early detection and treatment of cancer can often result in a better prognosis, but how can we successfully catch cancer sooner? Sometimes the earliest signs of cancer can be vague and, therefore, it can be very hard for a person to know whether particular symptoms warrant concern.

In the busy world we’re living in, it can seem impossible to make time for everything, but when certain symptoms begin to appear – that’s when it’s most important to make time for one thing: a doctor’s visit.

Here are some of common early signs of cancer that should not be ignored. It’s important to note that the below early signs of cancer can also be signs of other diseases or illnesses. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms – or a combination of them – you should consult with your doctor.

Change in Skin Tone or Markings

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, your skin can be the first to show signs you’re suffering from an internal disease. So, if your skin is taking on a different tone than normal – whether that’s darker looking skin, yellow-toned skin, or perhaps looking redder or even blue – this could mean something on the inside is not right.

“Cancer is one of the worst case scenarios should you begin to see skin tone changes, and it is always worth the trip to your doctor to be certain,” says Thomas Bauer, M.D., clinical medical director of Oncology at Hackensack Meridian Health and chief of Thoracic Surgery at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “When it comes to cancer specifically, some might think skin color changes are only applicable to skin cancers, but other cancers can cause a change in pigmentation as well.”

Skin tone isn’t the only thing about your skin that could change if your body is battling cancer, Dr. Bauer says.

“If you notice a new marking or mole on your skin, you need to pay close attention to it,” says Dr. Bauer. “Be on particular watch for a marking or mole that is asymmetrical, has an abnormal-looking border, or if it is growing over time. Likewise, if it begins changing color, it should be checked out by a health care professional.”

A New or Growing Lump

You notice a lump under your skin one day and wonder – “Has this always been there?” If you believe the lump is new – or if it’s an existing lump seems to be growing – it could be a potential warning sign.

“On one hand, a new lump could be a benign cyst – but on the other hand it could be far more serious,” explains Dr. Bauer. “While a patient cannot possibly be sure on their own if a lump is cancerous, they can lookout specifically for a lump that is hard and difficult to move around, and if the lump seems to be growing. As a best practice, it’s always in a patient’s best interest to have any new or growing lumps examined by a doctor.”

Abnormal Bleeding

Blood in your urine? Coughing up blood? Blood in your stool? Any abnormal bleeding is also cause for concern. For women, this abnormal bleeding could be a sign directly associated with cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. For women and men, coughing up blood can connected to lung cancer.

A Sore or Wound That Will Not Heal

You’ve had a sore in your mouth for what feels like forever. Perhaps it even appears to heal, only to return a day or two later.

“Sores or wounds that will not heal or continue to return should be cause for concern,” Dr. Bauer says. “It doesn’t always point to cancer, but more likely than not, something is happening inside that patient’s body that is causing the wound to go unhealed. This could be infection, lack of proper nutrition, or a range of other causes.”

Fatigue

“When your body has cancer, the cancer is using your body’s nutrients to fuel itself,” explained Dr. Bauer. “This can cause a person to feel incredibly run down. Any time a person feels so fatigued that it becomes difficult to make it through a day, they should consult with their doctor.”

While the signs above can be associated with cancer, there are many forms of cancer that might not show any early signs. For that reason, it is always important to visit your doctor for regular exams and candidly discuss with him or her your family and personal medical history.

Dr. Bauer practices at HOPE Tower at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune and is affiliated with Hackensack Meridian Health Cancer Care. Dr. Bauer’s office can be contacted by calling 732-776-3690.

The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

Click here for more information about Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine or call 732-263-7999.