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NEW YORK (CBS 2) – Diagnosing cancer can be difficult — even by top doctors with the most up to date tests. There are, however, some subtle signs that you can pick up on, if you know what to look for.
CBS 2′s Dr. Holly Phillips explains the top cancer warning signs and what they could mean for you.
For busy fashion executive Shannan Catlett, being less than 100 percent just wasn’t her.
“I knew I wasn’t feeling well, but it wasn’t something that was severe enough or big enough for me to take notice, like there’s something really wrong,” Catlett said.
But there was something very wrong. Catlett was tired from severe anemia — a symptom of her colon cancer, which was finally detected when she had a colonoscopy.
“They were like bingo, it’s there. It’s stage three. How did it go so far? I was shocked,” Catlett said.
After surgery and chemotherapy, Catlett is disease free, but her story is like many others — a subtle symptom of cancer, overlooked too long.
Oncologist Dr. Kevin Sullivan said ignoring even small warning signs can have serious consequences.
“I have seen poorer outcomes from those patients, that have not sought out medical attention when they did notice a change in their body,” Sullivan said.
Of the more than 200 different types of cancer people can develop, very few are actually screened for on a regular basis. Picking up on subtle warning signs can lead to an earlier diagnosis and a much greater chance of a full recovery.
A British group of researchers recently compiled the top warning signs of cancer that neither doctors or patients should ignore.
Blood in the urine is a possible sign of bladder cancer, coughing up blood is an indication of lung cancer — especially in a smoker, difficulty swallowing is an early sign of cancer of the esophagus, lumps on the breast among women and men could be breast cancer.
Blood in the stool is a top symptom of colon cancer, menstrual bleeding after menopause could suggest uterine cancer fatigue, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss or persistently achy bones all could be signs of cancer nearly anywhere in the body.
But by no means do these signs mean cancer all the time.
“I think there’s a lot of clinical scenarios where patients can develop one of these signs or symptoms for a non-cancer related reason,” Sullivan said.
Internist Dr. Jeffrey Morrison says research shows the mind can send even stronger warning signs of cancer than the body.
“Rather than an outward sign it could be an internal sign something that you just know is not settling right within your body and you may not understand exactly what it is,” Morrison said.
Researchers who identified the top cancer warning signs hope the list will remind doctors to order further testing if patients are found to have any of the symptoms.