Symptoms of cancer – Before you discount that persistent cough as just another part of flu season, you might want to ask your doctor to give it a second glance. According to a new study by Cancer Research U.K., more than half of adults have experienced alarm bells that could mean cancer, yet just two percent of them believed cancer could be a possible cause.
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Researchers sent questionnaires to nearly 5,000 U.K. residents registered with general practitioners—in other words, men and women who have and visit a primary care doctor. Just shy of 1,800 people completed the questionnaire, and five were eliminated because they indicated they’d already been diagnosed with cancer.
They asked participants if, in the last three months, they’d experienced a host of different symptoms (some of which could be possible signs of cancer), ranging from persistent coughing and unexplained weight loss to having low energy. If they had experienced any of these symptoms, they were asked to write in what they thought caused it and whether it was serious.
“We aren’t sure why, but it seems there is a mismatch between what people know in practice and whether they apply the knowledge to themselves,” says study co-authorKatriina Whitaker, Ph.D., senior research fellow at University College London. “So while awareness of many of these signs and symptoms is quite high, very few people mention cancer as a possible cause when it’s them who is experiencing the symptom.”
Here, we take a look at the 10 symptoms researchers consider to be red flags. While they could be nothing, the researchers say the point is to recognize that they could also be cancer—and to ask your doctor to check your symptoms out.
1. Persistent Cough or Hoarseness
While a cough here and there is nothing to worry about, a consistent cacophony or a cough accompanied by blood is definitely cause for concern. “Most coughs are not cancer,” says Therese Bartholomew Bevers, M.D., professor of clinical cancer prevention and the medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. “But certainly a persistent cough needs to be evaluated to see if it could be lung cancer.” Your physician should recommend a chest X-ray or CT scan to rule out cancer as a possibility.