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Enloe Regional Cancer Center

265 Cohasset Road
Chico, CA 95926

Inpatient Oncology Unit

1531 Esplanade
Chico, CA 95926

Do You Know the Warning Signs of Cancer?

The common cold may be easy to identify—a runny nose, sneezing, congestion. But what about cancer? Its warning signs may be far less obvious. Recent research suggests many people may not know them. Even more alarming: They may not consider such symptoms serious. We'll help you recognize the potential warning signs.

Assessing cancer knowledge

In a recent study, researchers in England wanted to gauge people’s general knowledge of possible cancer symptoms. They focused on group of older adults, age 50 and up, because age can raise a person’s risk for many types of cancer. As a result, this age group may be better at recognizing signs of the disease.

In a questionnaire, without mentioning cancer, the study asked participants if they had certain symptoms during the previous three months. These included a chronic cough, rapid weight loss, bowel changes, headache and sore throat. Some of these can be warning signs of cancer. Other symptoms were added to disguise the true nature of the study. More than 1,700 adults responded. If they answered yes to any symptoms, they were prompted to write in a possible cause. They were also asked if they found the symptom serious enough to see a doctor.

More than half of the adults reported having at least one possible cancer warning sign in the previous three months. The most common: a chronic cough and changes in bowel movements. Only 2 percent of respondents thought these and other signs might be related to cancer. What’s more, many didn’t consider them serious—even the more well-known ones, such as a change in a mole—a common sign of skin cancer.


Recognizing the disease

Fewer people are dying from cancer today compared with 20 years ago. Screening tests for the disease are partly the reason. They may help find cancer early when it’s easier to treat. For instance, a mammogram can detect breast cancer before you feel a lump.

That’s good news. But doctors don’t have a screening test for all cancers. So it’s still important to know the potential warning signs. People who recognize them are more likely to seek care right away, improving their chances against the disease.

Often, a health problem other than cancer is the cause of a certain symptom. But if you have one of the following, talk with your health care provider.

  • A lump in the breast or other part of the body
  • Skin problems, such as a sore that doesn't heal or a mole that has changed shape
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A chronic cough
  • Pain that doesn't go away, such as a headache or backache
  • Changes in bathroom habits, such as constipation, bloody stool, or frequent urination
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Some cancers may also cause fever and fatigue.

For more information about cancer prevention:

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  • video-img

    Drs. Voelker and Lobosky honored with 2014 Physician Legacy Award

  • video-img

    Drs. Voelker and Lobosky honored with 2014 Physician Legacy Award

  • video-img

    Drs. Voelker and Lobosky honored with 2014 Physician Legacy Award

  • video-img

    Drs. Voelker and Lobosky honored with 2014 Physician Legacy Award

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