Five Potential Warning Signs of Cancer
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Published on March 14, 2019

Five Potential Warning Signs of Cancer

Headshot of Dr. Cox, medical oncologist at the Bronson Cancer Center in Battle Creek.According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 1.9 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year. According to Dr. Tim Cox, medical oncologist at the Bronson Cancer Center, there are signs of cancer you need to be aware of.

“With so many types of cancer, symptoms and warning signs can vary case by case,” explains Dr. Cox. “However, abrupt and unexplained changes on the outside of your body are typically a sign of something happening on the inside. The best way to catch cancer early is to perform regular self-checks. Always pay attention to your own body.” Use the list of symptoms below to check yourself regularly for cancer symptoms. It could save your life.

1. Tired

If you’re tired, even with 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, you might be dealing with something more serious – including cancer. If feeling tired is getting in the way of your everyday life, talk with your doctor.

2. Skin Changes

Image of the ABCDE's of mole detectionNew moles, freckles and other skin changes can be an early sign of skin cancer. The good news is that early diagnosis can lead to a 98 percent chance of a 5-year survival rate. When doing your own monthly self-exams, look for the ABCDE’s of skin growths:

  • Asymmetry: two halves of the mole don’t match
  • Borders: the edges are irregular or uneven
  • Color: different or changing shades of brown, tan, black, red, blue or pink
  • Diameter: usually (but not always) bigger than 6 mm
  • Evolution: changes in appearance (size, shape or color), or symptoms (bleeding, oozing or itching)

Learn more from Dr. Cox about the difference between healthy and cancerous moles.

3. Unexplained Weight Loss

Quickly losing 10 or more pounds without trying or making any lifestyle changes is not normal. Many people diagnosed with cancer have unexplained weight loss. However, other medical problems may be the cause as well. Any major weight loss without trying should be checked out by your doctor right away.

4. Constant Pain

If you have ongoing pain and it isn’t going away with medication, exercise or other pain relief techniques, something might not be working right in your body. Although rare, frequent or persistent headaches can be a sign of a brain tumor, and abdominal or pelvic pain can be a sign of colon, rectum or ovarian cancer.

5. Lumps

Lumps or growths on and around the breast can be a sign of breast cancer. However, there are other signs to look out for, like redness, scaling of the skin, nipple retraction or discharge, and ongoing breast pain. Always check with a doctor if you notice any unusual changes. Visit Bronson’s breast health diagnostics and testing page to learn more.

It is important to note that the symptoms above can be caused by a variety of different reasons. Always pay attention to your own body and new, unexplained changes. If you suspect cancer, talk with your primary care provider. They can help guide you through necessary testing and refer you, if needed, to an oncologist. Don't have a primary care provider? Visit

High-Quality Cancer Care Close to Home

If you receive a cancer diagnosis, trust southwest Michigan’s most preferred healthcare system. Bronson Cancer Centers - located in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo - offer a comprehensive approach to care that surrounds with the expertise, technology, resources and positivity that you and your family need for your cancer journey. Learn more about Bronson's regional cancer program, including our nationally-recognized center in Battle Creek, at

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