Cancer: Symptoms of Common Cancers in Men

Reviewed on 7/13/2021

See Your Doctor When Symptoms Occur, and Get Regular Checkups.

Some men tend to ignore health problems.

Some men tend to ignore health problems. If a man's health changes, then he should get it checked out by his doctor. In some cases, if the underlying cause of a problem is cancer, ignoring symptoms can put you at risk. Some cancer symptoms in men are specific only to men (such as a mass in the scrotum or testicle), and other symptoms of cancer such as pain or fatigue are general and could have many causes.

It is important to see a doctor if your experience any of the symptoms of cancer outlined on the following slides, either to rule out cancer, or to detect cancer early while it is more easily treated.

No.1 - Breast Changes

Breast cancer in men is not common, but it is possible.

Breast cancer in men is not common, but it is possible. Any mass in the breast area, or breast changes such as dimpling or puckering of the skin, nipple retraction, redness or scaling, or nipple discharge should be reported to your physician. The doctor may order a mammogram, a biopsy, or other tests if indicated.

No. 2 - Persistent Pain or Discomfort in Any Body Area

Though pain is a common symptom of many medical disorders, any new pain that persists should be evaluated by a doctor.

Though pain is a common symptom of many medical disorders, any new pain that persists should be evaluated by a doctor. Your pain may not be cancer, but it's best to have a physician check you thoroughly to rule out other conditions and treat the underlying medical cause of your pain.

No 3. - Changes in the Testicles or Scrotum

Some doctors suggest a monthly testicular self-exam.

Any change in the size of the testicles, or swelling, lumps, or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum may be a symptom of testicular cancer. This cancer affects younger men age 20 to 39, and so the American Cancer Society recommends men get a testicular exam as part of regular checkups. Early detection is important as some testicular cancers grow rapidly.

No. 4 - Changes in the Lymph Nodes (Swelling, Painful, Warm and/or Reddish Color)

A man checks his neck and throat.

Swelling or a lump on the lymph nodes, or “glands,” such as under the armpits or in the neck could be a sign of infection, or it could be cancer. If your lymph node gets larger or stays larger for more than a month, consult your doctor.

No. 5 - Fever (High Fever of > 103 F or Chronic Fevers, Usually More Than One Week)

A man with a thermometer in his mouth suffers from a fever.

A high fever is usually a sign of infection but in some cases it could be a symptoms of cancer. Some blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma can cause fever. Other cancers when they have spread (metastasized) to another part of the body can cause fever. Consult your doctor to address the underlying cause of your fever.

No. 6 - Weight Loss Without Trying

A man weighs himself.

While many people are happy to see pounds drop off effortlessly, this can also be a sign of cancer. Cancer cells use up a lot of the body's energy, and can cause a seemingly unexplained weight loss. If you lose more than 10% of your pre-illness body weight in a short time without diet or exercise, even if you are overweight, talk to your doctor.

No. 7 - Gnawing Abdominal Pain and Depression

Man holds his stomach in pain.

Pain in the abdomen along with depression may be an indication of pancreatic cancer. The connection is unclear but these symptoms are often associated when pancreatic cancer is present. Anyone who is depressed should seek medical attention anyway.

Other symptoms that may occur include yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), and a change in stool color.

Report these symptoms to your doctor, who may order a chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and, possibly, and possibly other scans and tests.

No. 8 - Fatigue (Physical or Mental)

A middle-aged man yawns from fatigue.

Fatigue is a common symptom associated with a wide variety of medical problems. Fatigue can happen early on in cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma, and also with some colon or stomach cancers. Tell your doctor if you experience unexplained fatigue that does not improve with rest.

No. 9 - Persistent Cough (Especially Lasting More Than About Three Weeks)

A middle-aged man has a severe cough.

Persistent cough is a symptoms also associated with many medical conditions including colds, flu, and allergies. Prolonged coughs lasting more than three to four weeks could be a sign of cancer. Tell your doctor about your cough and how long it has lasted. Your doctor will examine your throat, check your lungs function, and, especially if you are a smoker, order X-rays. These tests can rule out other chronic conditions that cause cough such as bronchitis or acid reflux.

No. 10 - Difficulty Swallowing (Food, Liquids, or Both)

A man drinks water.

Difficulty swallowing can be a sign of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer, particularly esophageal cancer. Rather than switching to a liquid diet on your own, tell your doctor of your symptoms. You may be sent to a specialist (gastroenterologist) for an upper endoscopy to examine your esophagus, a barium swallow test, or a CT or MRI of the esophagus.

No. 11 - Changes in the Skin (Color Changes, Thickness Changes, Easy Bleeding)

A man examines his skin in the mirror.

The most common type of cancer in the U.S. is skin cancer. Any changes in the size, shape, color, or symmetry of moles should be noted to your doctor. Any skin pigmentation changes, bleeding on your skin, or scaling should also be reported. Don't wait more than a few weeks after noticing these symptoms as melanoma, a type of skin cancer, can be particularly aggressive and needs to be treated promptly. A skin biopsy may be ordered to detect cancer.

No. 12 - Blood Where It Shouldn't Be (Blood in Sputum, Stool or Urine)

A patient may be asked to provide a urine and stool sample.

If you are seeing blood in places where you should not be bleeding, this is a cause for concern. Even if it's not cancer it should be brought to the attention of a doctor. Blood in the stool may be from a hemorrhoid, but it could also be due to colon cancer. Blood in the urine may be due to bladder or kidney cancer. Blood in the sputum (mucus that comes up when you cough) could be due to lung, esophageal, or oral cancer. Tell your doctor about any blood in unusual places.

No. 13 - Mouth Changes (Chronic Oral Lesions That Do Not Heal)

 A dentist examines a patient's mouth.

White patches on the inside of the mouth or on the tongue may be a sign of leukoplakia, which is a precancerous condition that can lead to oral cancer. This is more common in smokers. Tell your doctor or dentist if you notice these patches.

No. 14 - Urinary Problems (Frequent Urge to Urinate, Slow Urine Stream, Incomplete Feeling of Emptying the Bladder)

A man rushes to the restroom.

Urinary problems such as urinary frequency, urgency, or a feeling of being unable to empty the bladder fully are common as men age. But when these symptoms start to interfere with daily activities, they might be a sign of prostate cancer, the second-most common cancer in men, after skin cancer.

A doctor will perform a digital rectal exam to check the prostate gland and see if it is enlarged. This may be due to a common non-cancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). A blood test may be ordered to test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which can point to the possibility of prostate cancer. If the PSA is high, you may be referred to a specialist (urologist), and a biopsy of the prostate gland may be performed.

No. 15 - Indigestion (Frequent or Almost Constant Discomfort)

A man with indigestion pain grips his chest.

Indigestion is another one of those common symptoms that may be associated with other underlying medical conditions. Sometimes severe indigestion is mistaken for a heart attack. However, persistent indigestion may also be a sign of cancer of the esophagus, throat, or stomach. Any severe pain in the chest area should be promptly evaluated by a doctor – if this pain is a heart attack it is a medical emergency. Play it safe and get checked out.

Cancer: Symptoms of Common Cancers in Men

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