Commonly overlooked cancer symptoms, 11-20
11. Swollen lymph nodes or lumps on the neck, underarm, or groin
Usually, enlarged lymph nodes are a sign that your body's fighting off an infection, but they can also indicate changes in the lymphatic system that could be a warning sign of cancer. For example, a lump or an enlarged lymph in the neck or underarm is sometimes a sign of thyroid, head, or throat cancer. A painless lump on the neck, underarm, or groin can be an early sign of leukemia. A key indicator: Infectious lumps are often sore to the touch, while cancerous lymph nodes may be painless.
12. Excessive bruising or bleeding that doesn't stop
This symptom usually suggests something abnormal happening with the platelets and red blood cells, which can be a sign of leukemia. One man with leukemia noticed that his gums bled when he brushed his teeth; another described bruising in strange places, such as on his fingers and hands. The explanation: Over time, leukemia cells crowd out red blood cells and platelets, impairing the blood's ability to carry oxygen and clot.
13. Weakness and fatigue
"I had to stop halfway across the yard and sit down when I was mowing the lawn," said one man when describing the fatigue that led to his discovery of pancreatic cancer. Generalized fatigue and weakness is a symptom of so many different kinds of cancer (and other ills) that you'll need to look at it in combination with other symptoms. But any time you feel exhausted without explanation and it doesn't respond to getting more sleep, talk to your doctor.
14. Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
"I thought it was hemorrhoids" is one of the most common statements doctors hear when diagnosing colorectal cancer. Blood in the toilet alone is reason to call your doctor and request further evaluation and a colonoscopy. Another sign of blood in the stool many people miss is stools that are darker in color.
15. Bowel problems
Constipation, diarrhea, and changes in stools can all be signs of cancer. As with many other cancer symptoms, the way to tell if this is cause for concern is if it goes on for more than a few days without a clear cause, such as flu or food poisoning. People diagnosed with colon cancer say they noticed more frequent stools, as well as a feeling that their bowels weren't emptying completely. One of the early signs of pancreatic cancer is fatty stools, which can be recognized as frequent, large stools that are paler than normal and smelly. This is a sign that your body's not absorbing your food normally, and it should be brought to your doctor's attention.
16. Difficulty urinating or changes in flow
One of the most common signs of prostate cancer is a feeling of not being able to start peeing once you're set to go. Many men also report having a hard time stopping the flow of urine, a flow that starts and stops, or a stream that's weaker than normal. These symptoms are also commonly associated with prostate enlargement that's benign, called benign prostatic hyperplasia. Either way, it's important to bring prostate-related symptoms to your doctor's attention and discuss tests for prostate cancer.
17. Pain or burning during urination
This symptom can also indicate a urinary tract infection or sexually transmitted disease, of course, but in any case it warrants an immediate trip to the doctor. This symptom is often combined with the feeling that you need to go more often, particularly at night. These same symptoms can also indicate inflammation or infection in the prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia, the name for what happens when the prostate grows bigger and blocks the flow of urine. However, you need to get checked out to tell the difference.
18. Blood in urine or semen
Men are often warned about blood in the urine, but they may not realize that blood in semen is also a danger sign for prostate cancer. Blood in the urine or semen isn't always visible as blood; urine may just be a pink, dark red, or smoky brown color, while blood in the semen may just look like a pinkish streak.
19. Erection problems
As prostate cancer progresses, another very common sign is difficulty getting or sustaining an erection. This can be a difficult subject to talk about, but it's important to bring it to your doctor's attention. It could be a sign of sexual dysfunction with another cause, of course, but it's a reason to have an exam and discuss testing for prostate cancer.
20. Pain, aching, or heaviness in the groin, hips, thighs, or abdomen
One sign of prostate cancer is frequent pain in the hips, upper thighs, or the lowest part of the back that slowly worsens over time. Men with testicular cancer report noticing a heavy, aching feeling low in the belly or abdomen, or in the scrotum or testicles themselves. They sometimes describe it as a feeling of downward pulling or as a generalized ache throughout the groin area. Prostate cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes often makes itself known as discomfort in the pelvis or swelling in the legs.