Some cancers fail to show any symptoms until they have grown or spread, or the symptoms that are shown may easily be mistaken for symptoms of something else.
While you may think that visiting the doctor yearly and getting your routine check-up should be enough to prevent cancers of all types, the truth is that many cancers can be tough to catch early no matter the preventative measures taken. Eating nutritious foods, knowing your family history, and getting plenty of physical activity is a great start for preventing cancer, but knowing exactly what signs and symptoms to look out for, even if you think your health and lifestyle is top-notch, can be life-saving.
Some cancers in particular can be difficult to detect — Cancer.org explains that the signs and symptoms experienced by cancer depend on the location of the cancer itself, how large the area is, and if the cancer has spread. Some cancers fail to show any symptoms until they have grown or spread, or the symptoms that are shown may easily be mistaken for symptoms of something else (fever, fatigue, and weight loss can be common in this case). The following five cancers can be particularly hard to detect because of their lack of symptoms early on, so continue to receive check-ups annually and know your family history in case you’re more susceptible to any that are listed.
The pancreas itself is a small organ that rests within the abdomen, and in general, its uses vary from helping with the digestion of food to secreting hormones that help with maintaining proper blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult to diagnose not necessarily for its lack of symptoms, but because of its lack of symptoms during its early stages, and the symptoms that do develop are quite similar to the symptoms of ulcers or pancreatitis. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, there are also no reliable tests for people who may have this cancer if there are no symptoms present.
Some symptoms of pancreatic cancer include pain in the upper abdomen or upper back, the swelling of extremities due to a blood clot, bloated stomach, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, chills, fever, and weight loss. Because pancreatic cancer causes the body to not properly digest fats, stools of the sufferer may also have an unusual color and odor as well. Many of these symptoms could easily be seen as a bad stomach virus setting in or even the flu, thus making the beginning stages of pancreatic cancer very difficult to detect.
When the cancer begins to spread, jaundice is a common sign, and it can be seen in both the yellowing of the skin and eyes. Fluid in the abdomen and early-onset diabetes are also more advanced signs of the disease.
Prostate cancer and other diseases related to the prostate are becoming more prevalent in American men; about one in eight men will develop prostate cancer, and 50% of these cases will occur in men over the age of 50. Prostate Advocates Aiding Choices in Treatments explains that prostate cancer can be incredibly difficult to detect because of its general lack of symptoms, and by the time symptoms are presenting themselves fully, the cancer has most likely spread to the bone, where it then becomes much more difficult to treat.
The prostate itself is a gland located at the base of the bladder and around the urethra, and it produces the fluid for sperm. Because the symptoms for prostate cancer and benign prostate enlargement are so similar and become a more common occurrence with age, many men commonly ignore these slight indicators. Some signs to look out for include urinary tract infections and a weak urine stream, blood in the urine, erectile dysfunction, and back pain. If you’re aware that you have a family history of the disease, then watching for these symptoms is crucial, and working to limit your caffeine and alcohol intake as you age can also help to avoid prostate irritation.
While bladder cancer also does not come with a long list of noticeable symptoms, it also is not a very well known or heavily discussed disease, which makes it all the more dangerous. According to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, about 63,000 American this year will develop bladder cancer, with three times as many cases occurring in men than in women. This cancer is also more likely to occur in older adults, and the exposure to tobacco, industrial solvents, paints, and paint thinners raises this risk.
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, and the list of immediately noticeable signs during the early stages begins and ends there. To accompany blood in the urine, you may also notice a more frequent need to urinate or painful urination as well. Signs such as pain in the mid-section or the bones in the bladder area indicate that the cancer has spread to the entire wall of the bladder or that the cancer has spread to other areas. If bladder cancer is in your family history and you experience blood in your urine, it is important to check with an urologist to ensure that you are cancer-free.
Most men are aware that blood in the stool is a common symptom of colon cancer, but what makes this type of cancer a silent killer is the fact that this blood does not always appear as the bright red color that you may expect. Colorectal cancer arises from a tumor forming in the inner wall of the large intestine, says Medicine Net, and most colon cancers form from colon polyps, which are growths on the inner lining of the colon. Because there are often no symptoms associated with the very early signs of colon cancer, removing any known colon polyps can greatly reduce your risk of cancer development. And, because colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in men, it’s extremely important to get your first colonoscopy around the age of 50, with or without a known family history.
As for symptoms of colon cancer, the most common is having blood in the stool that is dark, black, or tarry, according to Men’s Health. Because cancer tissue bleeds more easily than healthy tissue, dark blood in the stool indicates that the blood is occurring higher in the intestinal tract. Having blood in your stool does not automatically mean cancer, however; it can also mean you have a bleeding ulcer or ulcerative colitis. Abdominal pain, weight loss, and a loss of appetite can also signify colon cancer.
While many cancers are more likely to affect men over the age of 50, testicular cancer is more than half as likely to affect younger men between the ages of 20 and 45, says the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Testicular cancer typically develops in the germ cells, which are sperm-producing cells. While these cancerous tumors typically grow within the testicles, they can also grow near the spine or between the lungs. While testicular cancer sounds daunting, the good news is that it is almost always curable if detected early, and it is typically still treatable even when it hits a later stage.
Some men do not experience many noticeable symptoms at all in the early stages of testicular cancer, but there are a few hallmark signs to look out for and notice if they are to arise. One of the first signs is usually a small lump on the testicle or enlargement of the testicle itself. Though this lump may be no larger than a pea, it’s important to get it checked by a doctor just in case, even if you do not experience any pain or tenderness. Testicular cancer may also cause unevenness in the size of the testicles as well, or an ache in the lower abdomen or groin area. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to notify your doctor to rule out any other causes of testicular discomfort such as infection, injury, or the formation of a cyst.