Common cancer symptoms that men ignore
Many men tend to ignore cancer screenings and preventive health visits. Those who do get screened often do so at a woman's urging. But preventive screening can help find cancers or other problems when they are in their earliest stages, when they are much more likely to be curable and not cause serious problems.
Certain symptoms should prompt a visit to the doctor, not because cancer is likely, but because it should be ruled out or diagnosed early if it is present. This article lists some troublesome symptoms that may be signs of cancer. Of course, these symptoms do not mean that cancer is definitely present, but their presence should trigger a consultation with your physician. Your doctor will discuss the symptoms with you and perform a physical examination to determine whether you need any additional testing.
- Changes in the testicles: Testicular cancer is most common in younger (20 to 39 years of age) men. Signs of testicular cancer include can swellings, lumps, or changes in consistency of the testicles, and certain testicular cancers can arise and grow quickly. The American Cancer Society recommends that men get a testicular exam by a doctor as part of a routine cancer screening checkup.
- Breast lumps: While breast cancer in men isn't common, it does occur. In fact, about 1 out of every 100 cases of breast cancer occurs in men. As in women, breast cancer in men can cause breast masses or lumps, changes in the skin overlying the breast like dimpling or puckering, and changes in the nipple such as retraction or scaling and redness.
- Enlarged lymph nodes: There are a number of causes for enlarged lymph nodes, and cancer is only one of many possible causes. Still, if the enlargement persists or is not associated with an illness, you should consult your doctor to determine the cause.
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- Weight loss: When you're not dieting or trying to lose weight, weight loss can be a sign of cancer, infection, or other chronic conditions. If you're losing weight without trying to, it's a good idea to discuss your weight loss with your doctor.
- Fever: This can be a normal reaction to illness or infection. Certain cancers, particularly cancers of the blood cells or cancers that have spread, may cause fevers. Fevers that persist and cannot be explained should always be investigated by a doctor.
- Chronic cough: A cough that lasts more than 3 to 4 weeks should be evaluated by a doctor. Coughs are normal reactions to many respiratory illness and allergies, but a chronic cough can be a sign of lung or throat cancer.
- Problems swallowing: Problems or pain with swallowing can be a sign of a gastrointestinal cancer, like esophageal cancer. Other, noncancerous disorders of the esophagus can cause trouble swallowing, and your doctor can order tests to pinpoint the cause.
- Bleeding: When it is unexpected, bleeding should always be investigated. Examples include coughing up blood, having blood in the stool, or bloody urine.
- White patches in the mouth: Leukoplakia is the terms for white patches inside the mouth or on the tongue that form as a result of chronic irritation. They are especially common in smokers and those who use smokeless tobacco. These patches can progress to oral cancer and should be monitored by your physician.
- Fatigue: This symptom is tough to pinpoint, because almost any chronic medical condition can cause fatigue. Likewise, emotional and psychological disorders can cause or increase a person's perception of fatigue. Persistent and worsening fatigue, especially in the absence of known causes like missing sleep or overworking, however, can sometimes be a sign of cancer.
Medically reviewed by Jay B. Zatzkin, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Medical Oncology
"American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer." American Cancer Society. 3 May 2013.