Cancer experts say an unexplained weight loss of a stone or more, which is not linked to any diet or exercise regime, can be an early warning sign that something is wrong. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, about 40% of patients say they had unexplained weight loss when they were first diagnosed.
Helen Coleman, professor of cancer epidemiology at Queen’s University Belfast, explains that weight loss is not indicative of any particular type of cancer, but is the result of the general impact that tumors can have on the body metabolism
“When a tumor grows, it absorbs almost all the calories you eat to feed yourself,” he explains. “That’s why it can lead to this unintentional weight loss.”
Sharp says that over-65s are more likely to try to explain subtle symptoms, such as sudden weight loss, by the fact that they are older and therefore eating smaller meals, rather than seeing it as a possible problem “People really need to listen to their bodies,” she says. “Because they often know that something doesn’t feel natural, and it’s important to act on it.”
2. An unusual mole
The first sign of melanoma skin cancer may be a mole that changes size, shape, or color. While normal moles are usually oval in shape, a uniform color and no more than 6 mm in diameter, melanoma moles are subtly different.
To identify them, the Mayo Clinic advises thinking of the letters ABCDE. “A” refers to an asymmetrical shape, “B” means an irregular border, “C” indicates color changes or an uneven distribution of color, “D” is the diameter (since malignant moles are usually larger than 6 mm) and “E” is for evolution, as changes in size, color or shape can indicate a problem, as well as new itching or bleeding.
“Melanoma skin cancer is a good example of this point about going to the doctor early,” says Dorothy Bennett, professor of cell biology at the University of London. “The key sign in adults is a new or old mole that is growing, as well as being larger than others, itching, bleeding, irregular or blurred edges and some different colored areas. The more signs, the more likely be a melanoma.”
Bennett says it’s especially important to catch melanomas early because 99 percent of people will survive for five years if the cancer is caught early. In comparison, if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body by the time it is diagnosed, only 53% of people will survive a year.
3. Difficulty swallowing
Difficulty swallowing, especially when eating raw meat, bread or vegetables, can be an early warning symptom of different head and neck cancers, such as esophageal cancer, especially when combined with symptoms such as frequent burping and intense heartburn, cough and sensation. chest pressure. This may be due to the presence of a tumor that blocks the progress of food through the esophagus and into the stomach.
“Digestive cancers tend to have symptoms related to digestion, such as persistent heartburn that can affect people more at night,” says Coleman. “We often hear stories from patients who feel like food is stuck just above their stomach.”
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