early detectionA diagnosis of cancer can be a terrible shock. Often the person with cancer has not recognized any advance signs, and is blindsided by the news. But many cancers do have small warning signs. They are subtle and easy to overlook, but if you know about them, you may be able to get to the doctor early, and buy yourself critical time.

Here are ten early warning signs of cancer:

1. A Lump Under the Skin

People who perform regular breast exams are at an advantage in discovering breast cancer early. But you can also perform self-exams on every other part of your body. Feel beneath every part of your skin, and if you find a lump, let your doctor know.

2. Itchy Skin

When cancer develops, your body activates your immune system. It produces white blood cells, increasing blood flow to the area of the malignancy. This may make the area feel warm, tight and itchy. You may also see redness in the area.

3. Wounds That Fail to Heal

A cut or skin injury that fails to heal properly can be a sign of cancer. When your immune system mobilizes to fight off a malignancy, that can take priority over smaller injuries.

4. Bumps on the Mouth or Tongue

Bumps inside the mouth, gums or throat should be checked out by your doctor. This is particularly true if they are white in color.

5. Trouble Swallowing or Loss of Appetite

If you find your digestion is disrupted, you have difficulty swallowing, you have indigestion or just don’t want to eat, get checked out right away. These are doubly important because if you do have early cancer, you body needs nutrients to fight it off.

6. Changes in Bowel Movements

Any change in your normal bowel habits that lasts more than two days is a reason for concern. Blood in your stool, while it could be simply a sign of hemorrhoids, may also indicate colon cancer.

7. Changes in Urination

When you are healthy, your bladder function is fairly predictable. If you notice a change in the strength of urine flow, color, smell, or the presence of foam or blood, get checked immediately.

8. Bleeding

Any unexpected bleeding, absent an injury to the skin, is cause for concern. Blood from the uterus, nipple or in any bodily excretion may indicate a major problem.

9. Changes in Your Voice

If you notice a change in the pitch or tone of your voice, or if someone close to you mentions a change, take it seriously. Cancer of the larynx causes these changes.

10. Constant Coughing

Continual coughing can indicate cancer of the lungs, esophagus, throat, or stomach. If your cough is painful, or you cough up blood, it could be serious. If any cough lasts longer than a week or two, check with your doctor.

Of course, any of these symptoms can be related to conditions other than a malignancy. But with cancer, early detection is often the key to saving your life. Don’t fail to act.