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10 cancer symptoms men should not ignore

October 8, 2015 | Craig Cooper

Men may think they’re tougher than women, but they’re not, especially when it comes to cancer. Men are at a greater risk of developing and dying from cancer than are women. In fact, men have a one in two chance of developing cancer during their lifetime and a one in four chance of dying of some type of the disease, compared with a one in three and a one in five chance, respectively, in women, according to the American Cancer Society.

One factor contributing to these statistics is the fact that men are less likely to see a doctor or seek medical help than are women, even when they have a suspicion something isn’t quite right. Those suspicions could include cancer symptoms men should not ignore.

While no one wants to receive a diagnosis of cancer, identifying it early in the game can literally be a lifesaver. Having cancer is not an automatic death sentence. In fact, one reason the number of Americans with a history of cancer is rising is because of increasing survival rates.

If you have any of the following 10 cancer symptoms or signs, be sure to consult a physician. It may prove to be nothing at all or something other than cancer. But at least you and your family will know what you are up against and you can take the steps to manage it.

  1. Your testicles have changed. First of all, you should be checking your testicles regularly, like once a month while showering, for any abnormalities such as lumps, swelling, or heaviness. Pain also could be present. Such changes could indicate testicular cancer, which tends to grow rapidly. Therefore, see your doctor as soon as possible if you notice these testicular changes.
  2. You have difficulty peeing. Urinary problems affect most men at some point during their lifetime, but if they persist, it’s often an indication of prostate issues, such as enlarged prostate, prostatitis, or prostate cancer. The most common urinary symptoms associated with these conditions include urinary frequency, dribbling, difficulty starting to pee, weak stream, needing to pee a lot during the night, and urinary urgency. You won’t know what the problem is until you see your doctor for tests. So make that appointment for an examination and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing.
  3. You have difficulty swallowing. Most of us have a problem swallowing our pride, but if those swallowing challenges are related to eating and drinking, that’s a different story. If you experience swallowing problems and you also are vomiting and/or losing weight, stomach or throat cancer are a possibility. Numerous other conditions could be the problem as well, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, an inflamed esophagus, or esophageal spasms, but you should have the swallowing problem addressed in any case.
  4. There’s blood in your stool or urine. It’s not unusual for men who exercise vigorously to sometimes see blood in their urine. Both urinary tract infections and hemorrhoids also are associated with blood in pee. However, the presence of blood in pee or stool also can be one of the earliest signs of bladder, colon, or kidney cancer. Don’t take chances; get it checked out.
  5. You notice breast changes. The next time you take your shirt off, check out your chest. See any lumps, swelling, discharge from the nipple, an inward nipple, or puckered, dimpled, or scaling of the nipple or skin? These are signs of breast cancer in men, but some of them could be indications of something else, such as gynecomastia (benign enlargement of breast tissue). See your doctor about those changes as soon as possible.
  6. Moles or skin spots have changed. When was the last time you took a really close look at the skin all over your body, especially areas exposed to the sun and/or any moles or skin spots? Changes in the shape, color, or size of a mole or other spot on your skin are signs of skin cancer. These should be examined by a doctor as soon as possible, since skin cancer can be aggressive and even deadly.
  7. You have persistent swollen lymph nodes. When you’re battling a cold, the flu, or a case of bronchitis, you may notice that the lymph nodes in your neck, groin, or armpits are swollen. While this is a sign that your immune system is in fighting mode, the presence of persistent swollen lymph nodes (four weeks or longer) may be a sign of something else, including certain cancers (e.g., lymphomas, leukemias) or cancers that have spread (e.g., swollen lymph nodes in the armpit may indicate breast cancer; swollen lymph nodes around the color bone may suggest lung cancer).
  8. Patches have appeared in your mouth or on your lips. This is a sign of mouth cancer (aka, oral cavity cancer) and is especially meaningful for smokers or those who chew tobacco. Although your dentist and doctor can check the inside of your mouth (that is, if you go regularly!), you should do so as well. A red or white patch on the inside of the mouth is one sign of mouth cancer; others include a sore that won’t heal, tongue pain, stiff or painful jaw, and a lump or thickening of the lining of your mouth.
  9. You have lost weight unexpectedly. Although weight loss is a blessing for many men who are battling the scales, dropping 10 pounds or more without changing your diet or exercise habits could be a signal for a variety of problems. When you visit your doctor (and you should), tests could reveal that it’s a thyroid problem (i.e., overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism), parasite infection, viral infection, or a gastrointestinal disorder. However, unexpected weight loss also is a sign of cancer of the pancreas, lungs, and stomach.
  10. Your heartburn isn’t getting better. You’ve been good to yourself: your alcohol intake is down to two or three beers a week, you’ve cut out fried, fatty, and salty foods, and you’re exercising to reduce stress. Yet your heartburn is as bad as ever…and perhaps worse. This could be a sign of throat or stomach cancer. Men are more prone to develop stomach cancer than are women. If you work in the rubber, coal, or metal industries, you are at greater risk as well. Stop living on antacids and see your doctor.

Ignoring cancer symptoms or pretending you are invulnerable to the clutches of the different forms of the disease is foolhardy. Pay attention to the signals your body is sending to you.