15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore (cont.)

"Anytime you see blood coming from a body part where you've never seen it before, see a doctor," Lichtenfeld says. "If you start coughing or spitting up blood, have blood in the bowel, or blood in the urine, it's time for a doctor visit."

Mishori says it's a mistake to assume blood in the stool is simply from a hemorrhoid. "It could be colon cancer," he says.

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms. The doctor may also order tests such as a colonoscopy, which is an examination of the colon using a long flexible tube with a camera on one end. The purpose of a colonoscopy is to identify any signs of cancer or precancer or to identify what else might be causing the bleeding.

Cancer Symptom in Men No. 13: Mouth Changes

If you smoke or chew tobacco, you need to be especially alert for any white patches inside your mouth or white spots on your tongue. Those changes may indicate leukoplakia, a precancerous area that can occur with ongoing irritation. The condition can progress to oral cancer.

You should report the changes to your doctor or dentist. The dentist or doctor will take a careful history, examine the changes, and then decide what other tests might be needed.

Cancer Symptom in Men No. 14: Urinary Problems

As men age, urinary problems become more frequent, says Yu. He's talking about the urge to urinate more often, a sense of urgency, and a feeling of not completely emptying the bladder. "Every man will develop these problems as he gets older," he says. "But if you notice it and it concerns you, you should seek attention." That's especially true if the symptoms get worse.

Your doctor will do a digital rectal exam, which will tell him whether the prostate gland is enlarged. The gland often enlarges as a man ages. It's typically caused by a noncancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. Your doctor may also order a blood test to check the level of prostate-specific antigen or PSA. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland, and the test is used to help determine the possibility of prostate cancer. If the doctor notices abnormalities in the prostate or if the PSA is higher than it should be, your doctor may refer you to an urologist and perhaps order a biopsy.

Cancer Symptom in Men No. 15: Indigestion

A lot of guys, especially as they get older, think "heart attack" when they get bad indigestion, even if they've just eaten and drunk their way through a marathon Super Bowl viewing. But persistent indigestion could point to cancer of the esophagus, throat, or stomach and should be reported to your doctor.

Your doctor will take a careful history and ask questions about the indigestion episodes. Based on the history and your answers to the questions, the doctor will decide what tests are needed.

SOURCES:

American Cancer Society: "Additional Signs and Symptoms of Cancer."

National Cancer Institute: "Testicular Cancer: Questions and Answers."

Mary Daly, MD, oncologist and head, department of clinical genetics, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia.

Hannah Linden, MD, medical oncologist and associate professor of medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, and joint associate member, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle.

Ranit Mishori, MD, assistant professor and director of the family medicine clerkship, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, D.C.

Debbie Saslow, PhD, director of breast and gynecologic cancer, American Cancer Society, Atlanta.

Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer, national office, American Cancer Society, Atlanta.

Evan Y. Yu, MD, assistant professor of medicine, University of Washington, assistant member, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Seattle.

Reviewed on September 10, 2010

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