15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Men, heed these possible clues and find cancer early, when
it's more treatable.
Experts say that men could benefit greatly by being alert to
certain cancer symptoms that require a trip to the doctor’s office sooner
rather than later. But when it comes to scheduling doctor visits, men are
Men often need to be pushed by women to get screened for cancer.
That’s unfortunate. Routine preventive care can find cancer and other diseases
in their early stages. When cancer is found early, there are more options for
treatment. That means there are also better chances for a cure.
Some cancer symptoms in men are specific. They involve certain
body parts and may point directly to the possibility of cancer. Other symptoms
are vague. For instance, pain that affects many body parts could have many
explanations. It may or may not be a sign of cancer. But you can't rule cancer
out without seeing a doctor.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 1: Breast Mass
If you’re like most men, you’ve probably never considered the
possibility of having breast cancer. Although it’s not common, it is possible.
"Any new mass in the breast area of a man needs to be checked out by a
In addition, the American Cancer Society identifies several other
worrisome signs involving the breast that men as well as women should take note
of. They include:
- Skin dimpling or puckering
- Nipple retraction
- Redness or scaling of the
nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge
When you consult your physician about any of these signs, expect
him to take a careful history and do a physical exam. Then, depending on the
findings, the doctor may order a mammogram, a biopsy, or other tests.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 2: Pain
As they age, people often complain of increasing aches and pains.
But pain, as vague as it may be, can be an early symptom of some cancers. Most
pain complaints, though, are not from cancer.
Any pain that persists, according to the American Cancer Society,
should be checked out by your physician. The doctor should take a careful
history, get more details, and then decide whether further testing is
necessary. If it's not cancer, you will still benefit from the visit to the
office. That’s because the doctor can work with you to find out what's causing
the pain and determine the proper treatment.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 3: Changes in the Testicles
Testicular cancer occurs most often in men aged 20 to 39. The
American Cancer Society recommends that men get a testicular exam by a doctor
as part of a routine cancer-related checkup. Some doctors also suggest a
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 3: Changes in the Testicles continued...
Evan Y. Yu , MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington
and assistant member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer
in Seattle. Yu
tells WebMD that being aware of troublesome testicular symptoms between
examinations is wise. "Any change in the size of the testicles, such as
growth or shrinkage," Yu says, “should be a concern.”
In addition, any swelling, lump, or feeling of heaviness in the
scrotum should not be ignored. Some testicular cancers occur very quickly. So
early detection is especially crucial. "If you feel a hard lump of
coal [in your testicle], get it checked right away," Yu says.
Your doctor should do a testicular exam and an overall assessment
of your health. If cancer is suspected, blood tests may be ordered. You may
also undergo an ultrasound examination of your scrotum, and your doctor may
decide to do a biopsy. A biopsy may require the
removal of the entire testicle.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 4: Changes in the Lymph Nodes
If you notice a lump or swelling in the lymph nodes under your
armpit or in your neck -- or anywhere else -- it could be a reason for concern,
says Hannah Linden, MD. Linden
is a medical oncologist and an associate professor of medicine at the
University of Washington School of Medicine. She is also a joint associate
member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer
"If you have a lymph node that gets progressively larger, and it's been
longer than a month, see a doctor," she says.
Your doctor should examine you and determine any associated
issues that could explain the lymph node enlargement, such as infection. If
there is no infection, a doctor will typically order a biopsy.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 5: Fever
If you've got an unexplained fever, it may indicate cancer.
Fever, though, might also be a sign of pneumonia or some other illness or
infection that needs treatment.
Most cancers will cause fever at some point. Often, fever occurs
after the cancer has spread from its original site and invaded another part of
the body. Fever can also be caused by blood cancers such as lymphoma or
leukemia, according to the American Cancer Society.
It’s best not to ignore a fever that can’t be explained. Check
with your doctor to find out what might be causing the fever and to determine
its proper treatment.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 6: Weight Loss Without Trying
Unexpected weight loss is a concern. "Most of us don't lose
weight easily." He's talking about more than simply a few pounds from a
stepped up exercise program or to eating less because of a busy schedule. If a
man loses more than 10% of his body weight in a time period of 3 to 6 months,
it’s time to see the doctor, he says.
Your doctor should do a general physical exam, ask you questions
about your diet and exercise, and ask about other symptoms. Based on that information,
the doctor will decide what other tests are needed.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 7: Gnawing Abdominal Pain and Depression
“Any man (or woman) who's got a pain in the abdomen and is
feeling depressed needs a checkup,” . Experts have found a link between
depression and pancreatic cancer. Other symptoms of pancreas cancer may
include jaundice, a change in stool color -- often gray -- a darkening of the
urine. Itching over the whole body may also occur.
Expect your doctor to do a careful physical exam and take a
history. The doctor should order tests such as an ultrasound, a CT scan or
both, as well as other laboratory tests.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 8: Fatigue
Fatigue is another vague symptom that could point to cancer in
men. But many other problems could cause fatigue as well. Like fever, fatigue
can set in after the cancer has grown. But according to the American Cancer
Society, it may also happen early in cancers such as leukemia, colon cancer, or
If you often feel extremely tired and you don’t get better with
rest, check with your doctor. The doctor should evaluate the fatigue along with
any other symptoms in order to determine its cause and the proper treatment.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 9: Persistent Cough
Coughs are expected, of course, with colds, the flu, and
allergies. They are also sometimes a side effect of a medication. But a very
prolonged cough -- defined as lasting more than three or four weeks -- or a
change in a cough should not be ignored, says Ranit Mishori, MD, assistant
professor and director of the family medicine clerkship at Georgetown
University School of Medicine in Washington,
D.C. Those cough patterns warrant
a visit to the doctor. They could be a symptom of cancer, or they could
indicate some other problem such as chronic bronchitis or acid reflux.
Your doctor should take a careful history, examine your throat,
listen to your lungs, determine their function with a spirometry test, and, if
you are a smoker, order X-rays. Once the reason for the coughing is identified,
the doctor will work with you to determine a treatment plan.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 10: Difficulty Swallowing
Some men may report trouble swallowing but then ignore it,
Lichtenfeld says. "Over time, they change their diet to a more liquid
diet. They start to drink more soup." But swallowing difficulties, he
says, may be a sign of a GI cancer, such as cancer of the esophagus.
Let your doctor know if you are having trouble swallowing. Your
doctor should take a careful history and possibly order a chest X-ray and a
barium swallow. The doctor may also send you to a specialist for an upper GI
endoscopy to examine your esophagus and upper GI tract.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 11: Changes in the Skin
You should be alert to not only changes in moles -- a well-known
sign of potential skin cancer -- but also changes in skin pigmentation, says
Mary Daly, MD. Daly is an oncologist and head of the department of clinical
genetics at the Fox Chase Cancer
Center in Philadelphia.
Daly also says that suddenly developing bleeding on your skin or
excessive scaling are reasons to check with your doctor. It's difficult to say
how long is too long to observe skin changes, but most experts say not to wait
longer than several weeks.
To find out what’s causing the skin changes, your doctor should
take a careful history and perform a careful physical exam. The doctor may also
order a biopsy to rule out cancer.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 12: Blood Where It Shouldn't Be
“Anytime you see blood coming from a body part where you've never
seen it before, see a doctor,” Lichtenfeld says. "If you start coughing up
blood, spitting up blood, have blood in the bowel or in the urine, it’s time
for a doctor visit.”
Mishori says it’s a mistake to assume blood in the stool is simply
from a hemorrhoid. "It could be colon cancer," he says.
Your doctor should ask you questions about your symptoms. The
doctor may also order tests such as a colonoscopy. This is an examination of
the colon using a long flexible tube with a camera on one end. The purpose of a
colonoscopy is to identify any signs of cancer or precancer or identify any
other causes of the bleeding.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 13: Mouth Changes
If you smoke or chew tobacco, you need to be especially alert for
any white patches inside your mouth or white spots on your tongue. Those
changes may indicate leukoplakia, a pre-cancerous area that can occur with
ongoing irritation. This condition can progress to oral cancer.
You should report the changes to your doctor or dentist. The dentist
or doctor should take a careful history, examine the changes, and then decide
what other tests might be needed.
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 14: Urinary Problems
As men age, urinary problems become more frequent, says Yu. Those
problems include the following:
- The urge to urinate more often,
especially at night
- A sense of urgency
- A feeling of not completely
emptying the bladder
- An inability to start the
- Urine leaking when laughing
- A weakening of the urine
"Every man will develop these problems as he gets
older," Yu says. "But once you notice these symptoms, you should seek
medical attention." That's especially true if the symptoms get worse.
Your doctor should do a digital rectal exam, which will tell him
whether the prostate gland is enlarged or has
nodules on it. The prostate gland often enlarges as a man ages. It’s most often
caused by a noncancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia or
Your doctor may discuss doing a
blood test to check the level of prostate-specific antigen or PSA. PSA is a
protein produced by the prostate gland, and the test is used to help determine
the possibility of prostate cancer.
If the doctor notices abnormalities in the prostate or if the PSA
is higher than it should be, your doctor may refer you to a urologist and
perhaps order a biopsy. Prostate cancer may be present even with a normal PSA
Cancer Symptom in Men No. 15: Indigestion
Many men, especially as they get older, think "heart
attack" when they get bad indigestion. But persistent indigestion may
point to cancer of the esophagus, throat, or stomach. Persistent or worsening
indigestion should be reported to your doctor.
Your doctor should take a careful history and ask questions about
the indigestion episodes. Based on the history and your answers to the
questions, the doctor will decide what tests are needed.