Center for Asbestos Safety

Signs and symptoms of specific types of cancers

Apart from the general symptoms, you also need to be watchful of other commonly occurring signs and symptoms that may indicate towards cancer. Here also, factors other than cancer may be responsible for the symptoms, but it is still essential that you see your doctor.

Irregular bowel habits or bladder function

Symptoms such as constipations or diarrhea that refuses to go away or when there is a visible change in the size of stools may indicate the presence of colon cancer. Blood in the urine, pain while passing urine, or irregular bladder function (for example if more urine is being passed than normal) are symptoms that may indicate towards bladder or prostate cancer. Any irregularities in bowel habits or bowel function should be reported to the doctor as soon as possible.

Sores that don’t heal

Certain types of skin cancers can bleed and appear like sores that never heal. A sore in the mouth that refuses to go away can be oral cancer and must be shown to a doctor soon, especially if the individual takes alcohol regularly, smokes or chews tobacco. Likewise, sores that occur on the penis or vagina can just be signs of an infection or they may be indicative of early cancer. These should not be disregarded.

White patches or spots in the mouth or on the tongue

White patches that occur inside the mouth and white spots that occur on the tongue can be leukoplakia, which has been described as a pre-cancerous area resulting from constant irritation. Most often it is caused by smoking or use of tobacco in other forms. The risk of developing leukoplakia is high amongst individuals who smoke pipes or use oral or spit out tobacco. If left untreated, leukoplakia can develop into oral cancer. Any persistent changes in the mouth should be shown to a doctor or dentist as soon as possible.

Abnormal bleeding or discharge

Abnormal bleeding can occur in early or advanced stages of cancer. Blood in the sputum (phlegm) can be indicative of lung cancer. Blood in the stool (or when the stool is dark or black colored) can be indicative of rectal or colon cancer. Unusual vaginal bleeding can occur as a result of cancer of the cervix or cancer of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus). If there is blood in the urine, it can indicate the presence of kidney or bladder cancer. A bloody discharge coming out of the nipple can be a vital sign of breast cancer.

Formation of lumps or thickening in the breast or other body parts

A number of cancers are noticeable through the skin. These types of cancer usually occur in the testicle, breast, lymph nodes (glands), and other soft tissues present in the body. A lump or thickening can be indicative of an early or advanced stage of cancer. These should be reported to a doctor right away, especially if you have just noticed it and feel that its size has increased.

Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing

Although these symptoms are usually caused by other factors, indigestion or difficulty in swallowing can be indicative of cancer of the pharynx (throat), esophagus (the food pipe inside the body that goes to the stomach), or stomach.

Any changes in a mole or wart or other changes in the skin

Changes in the color, size, shape and definitive border of any mole, wart, or freckle should be shown to the doctor as soon as possible. Any recent changes in the skin should also be reported right away. A change in skin can be a melanoma and it can be treated successfully if it is detected early on.

Persistent cough or hoarseness

A cough that refuses to go away on its own can be indicative of lung cancer. Hoarseness may indicate towards the presence of cancer of the larynx (voice box) or thyroid.

While the signs and symptoms described above are those that are most commonly reported with cancer, there are still others that are not as common and are not discussed here. In case you notice any changes in how you feel or how your body functions, you need to report these to a doctor right away, especially if the symptoms persist or are getting worse. If it is not cancer, your doctor can find out the actual cause of the same and administer treatment, if required. In case it is cancer, you’ll have a better chance of receiving treatment early on, when there is a possibility that the treatment will be successful.

Center for Asbestos
Safety in the Workplace