Dr. Ioana Bonta, Cancer Treatment Centers of America®

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 1 out of 3 people in the United States will have cancer during their lifetimes. With a number that staggering, it’s difficult not to wonder whether you or a loved one will be affected by the disease in some way. However, before jumping to conclusions, it’s important to remember that not all subtle or common symptoms are a sign of something malignant. In addition, a substantial proportion of cancers can be prevented, especially by monitoring your health and taking active measures to maintain wellness.

A recent study by American Cancer Society epidemiologists affirms this idea and found that at least 42 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in the United States are potentially avoidable.

Most of us are aware of common, high-risk lifestyle choices that increase your risk of certain cancers, like using tobacco, poor diet or physical inactivity. While avoiding these risk factors is important, it’s equally critical to pay attention to indicators from your body that may convey potential health issues. As nonthreatening as they may seem on the surface, you should know that symptoms, when prolonged, could be a signal of a serious health problem.

In my experience, 10 key symptoms of cancer people often overlook include:

1.       Unexplained weight loss
2.       Fever of unknown origin
3.       Night sweats
4.       New or unexplained pain
5.       Persistent heartburn
6.       Mouth or tongue sores that don’t heal
7.       Bloating
8.       Irregular bowel patterns
9.       Unexplained lumps
10.     Trouble swallowing

These symptoms are often misidentified because they are not specific to just cancer, and therefore can be attributable to other health issues. For example, someone who suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and regularly experiences an irregular bowel pattern does not necessarily assume his or her symptoms could be a sign of colorectal cancer. In addition, a common symptom of ovarian cancer is bloating and early satiety but many women may attribute fluid buildup or bloating to normal weight gain. For these reasons, it’s important to know what symptoms can signal more than one health issue.

Key Takeaway: if you experience any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss what you’re experiencing. This way, they can help make sense of what your symptoms mean, perhaps properly diagnose your symptoms and continue to monitor for issues, or refer you to a specialist. When it comes to cancer prevention, you are your own best advocate.

Dr. Ioana Bonta is a medical oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) in Newnan.