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Sharp Health News

10 cancer symptoms men shouldn’t ignore

June 22, 2021

Man in office coughing

Many men avoid a trip to the doctor as long as possible, even when they’re not feeling well. But putting off regular checkups can have serious consequences. As we age, they’re important to help us stay healthy and catch early warning signs of more serious conditions.

Dr. Igor Medic, a board-certified oncologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, says, “Regular health exams can identity health problems before they start, particularly when it comes to cancer.”

Many early symptoms can be subtle or easily attributed to something else, often causing men to brush them off completely. Dr. Medic encourages men to contact their doctor if something doesn’t seem right — even while quarantining.

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 320,000 men in the U.S. will die from cancer in 2020. The most common types of cancer among men are prostate, colon and lung cancer.

“It’s best to be diagnosed as early as possible, in the beginning stages, when the chance for treatment is highest,” he says.

When found early, many cancers are treatable. In the past several years, advances in technology and treatments have also significantly increased survival rates.

Here are 10 common symptoms men should watch out for:

1. Changes in your skin. All skin tones are susceptible to skin cancer. If you work outside or have a history of sunburns, there’s even more reason to be vigilant. Look for any unusual bleeding, scaling or sores that don’t heal. Other signs include moles and freckles that change in color, size or shape.

2. Indigestion or trouble swallowing. A painful burning sensation in your throat or chest shouldn’t be ignored — even if you suspect it’s from eating spicy food. It can be a sign of esophageal, stomach or throat cancer.

3. Bloody stool. Although blood in your stool could be caused by hemorrhoids, it could also indicate something more serious, including colon cancer.

4. Black, tarry stool. This could be attributed to a diet change or new medicine. But even if you think you know what’s causing it, this is a concerning symptom that should be reported immediately to your health care provider. It could be a sign of upper or lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract carcinoma.

5. Blood in the urine. It’s always a good idea to consult your health care provider right away about any type of abnormal bleeding. Don’t ignore this symptom, as it could indicate prostate, bladder or kidney cancer.

6. Coughing up blood. A cough can be a common cold symptom, but coughing up blood is not normal. A cough is also the most common sign of lung cancer.

7. Headache pain. From time to time, we all get headaches. If your headache seems stronger than usual, a pattern develops, or it’s different in presentation than other headaches you’ve had before, it’s best to see your doctor to rule out anything serious.

8. Significant or unintentional weight loss. Shedding a few pounds through diet and exercise generally is no cause for concern. Unexpectedly losing 10 or more pounds for no reason isn’t usually normal and can signal pancreatic, stomach or lung cancer.

9. Long-lasting fever or profuse night sweating. Sometimes these symptoms are associated with certain types of cancer. Your doctor will probably ask you for how long and how often it happens, in addition to other questions to help figure out the cause.

10. Unexplained fatigue. Fatigue is a common symptom of cancer. If you’re getting a good night’s sleep and your fatigue doesn’t go away, or if it’s getting worse over time, it’s time to get checked.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Igor Medic, board-certified oncologist about cancer for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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