Edward T. Creagan, MD, cancer specialist and author of How Not to Be My Patient: A Physician’s Secrets for Staying Healthy and Surviving Any Diagnosis, says, “The careful physician will encourage you to elaborate on how you’re feeling, and then with insight, professionalism, and judgment can outline the most appropriate tests to home in on your symptoms. Ultimately, your health is in your hands. No one has a greater stake in your health than you do.”
Here are Creagan’s top 10 symptoms you need to watch out for:
1. Fatigue lasting more than a week without obvious explanation.
2. Cough that lasts more than five to 10 days, especially if you are a smoker and particularly if you start coughing up thick green or bloody mucus.
3. Pain that lasts more than three to five days in a specific area without obvious explanation.
4. Chest pain. It’s the big one many men and women foolishly ignore. Don’t toy with disaster. Get emergency care now.
5. Blood in the rectum, stool, urine, or mucus.
6. A new lump or bump that’s not particularly painful or associated with trauma. Cancer usually is not painful. A lump or bump that has occurred relatively quickly and feels tender is almost always not cancer. But if it doesn’t disappear over a week or so and you can’t remember if you hurt yourself there, see your doctor.
7. Moles. If a mole appears rapidly or darkens or itches over a relatively short number of months, or starts to bleed, you need to have a biopsy (cells viewed under a microscope).
8. Weight loss. As a society, we are obsessed with diets. But weight loss without a diet is another matter. Many people who experience a dramatic loss of weight might dance with joy. But a relatively quick loss of weight—faster than two or three pounds a week—may signal an underlying problem.
9. Headaches often are related to tension and stress and rarely are brain tumors, although that can be your first thought. Don’t ignore the new onset of a new type of headache, especially if it occurs in the morning and increases when you cough or sneeze.
10. Stroke signs: Weakness of an arm or a leg, or numbness and tingling of an arm, leg, face, or tongue, or difficulty with speech, could indicate the potential onset of a stroke. Stroke causes the death of brain tissue because the blood supply to certain parts of your brain is interrupted. This is a 911 emergency.
Edward T. Creagan, MD, is a professor of medical oncology at one of the world’s leading medical centers in Rochester, Minn., and the author of over 400 scientific papers. @AskDoctorEd, Facebook.com/HowNottoBeMyPatient, and online at HowNotToBeMyPatient.com