5 Common Types of Cancer and Specific Symptoms to be Aware Of

by Brittany McNabb

Many people worry, "Could this be cancer?" There are many common symptoms that could be cancer and signs that people might want to be aware of. Prevention and early detection of cancer can be important to your health. According to the American Cancer Society some cancers can be found early and therefore treated before they have time to spread and grow.

Waring Signs Of Cancer

Keep in mind that not all these things can mean cancer. If you are worried about any symptoms or signs that might be cancer, please contact your doctor or visit the American Cancer Society website for more information. This information is not meant to scare you but should cause you to be more aware of what is going on with your body if you are having suspicious symptoms. 

Here are 5 common types of cancer and signs to be aware of. 

1. Skin Cancer

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Skin cancer is the most common cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the US. This is more than all the other cancers combined. While this is a shocking statistic, the good news is that you can do specific things to prevent skin cancer and to find it early. This includes protecting yourself from the sun and checking your body regularly for any abnormalities or skin changes. Some common signs of lung cancer include:

- A new spot on the skin

- A spot that is changing in size, shape, or color

- A spot that looks different from any other spot on your skin

- Moles that appear later in life

- Changes in moles including asymmetry (one half looks different from the other), border (the border becomes irregular or blurred), color (changes in color), diameter (growth over 6 millimeters in size), and evolution (any suspicious changes over time). *Hint: use the ABCDE gnomonic device to remember what to look for.

- A sore that does not heal

2. Breast Cancer


Breast cancers that are found early are more likely to be confined to the breast and therefore can be treated more effectively. For this reason, breast cancer screening is important to treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, "yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health." Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of breast cancer and they may recommend a different screening routine. Self-breast exams are an option starting for women in their 20s. Here are some common signs of breast cancer:

- The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump, mass, or swelling in the breast

- Skin irritation or dimpling

- Breast or nipple pain

- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin

- A nipple discharge other than breast milk

3. Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer

Most lung cancer cannot be found until later stages. However, it can be helpful to know some symptoms of lung cancer. Symptoms include:

- Trouble breathing and shortness of breath

- A persistent cough that does not go away or gets worse with time

- Chest pain that feels worse with breathing, coughing, or laughing

- Hoarseness or wheezing

- Bronchitis or pneumonia that does not go away with treatment or keeps coming back

- Coughing up blood

- Some WhatNexters said that they experienced back pain before they were diagnosed with lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, bone pain can present as a symptom if the cancer has spread to other organs.

4. Prostate Cancer

Prostate Exams

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, excluding skin cancer. The good news is that it can often be treated successfully. Early prostate cancer sometimes exhibits no symptoms; for this reason it is important for men starting at the age of 50 to talk to their doctor about the pros and cons of a prostate exam. Specific signs and symptoms of prostate cancer include:

- Problems urinating

- Blood in the urine

- Trouble getting an erection (erectile dysfunction)

- Pain in the hips, back (spine), or chest (ribs)

- Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet

5. Colorectal Cancer

Colon Cancer

In general, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20 (5%). Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both women and men. There are screening guidelines you can follow and signs and symptoms you can be aware of including: 

- A change in bathroom habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days

- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so

- Rectal bleeding

- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain

- Unintended weight loss

Once again, these signs and symptoms are not meant to scare you but to simply keep you informed. The best way to tackle warning signs of cancer is to be informed, watch your body for changes, and report any concerns to your doctor so you can work together to proceed with necessary tests or precautions. Don't be bashful about passing on information to family members or loved ones. 

Are there any specific signs or symptoms that led you to discovering cancer? Feel free to share your experiences below.

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