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15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore

By Linda Rath
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by William Blahd, MD

You eat pretty well (some days) and work out (most days). But if you’re like a lot of men, a trip to the doctor isn't on your to-do list. That can be bad if it means you brush off early signs of cancer.

One of the best ways to fight the disease is to catch it in the early stages, when it’s more treatable. The problem is that the warning signs for many kinds of cancer can seem pretty mild.

Take a look at these 15 signs and symptoms. Some are linked more strongly to cancer than others, but all are worth knowing about -- and even talking over with your doctor.

1. Problems When You Pee

Many men have some problems peeing as they get older, like:

  • A need to pee more often, especially at night
  • Dribbling, leaking, or an urgent need to go
  • Trouble starting to pee, or a weak stream

An enlarged prostate gland usually causes these symptoms, but so can prostate cancer. See your doctor to check on the cause of the problem. He’ll give you an exam to look for an enlarged prostate, and he may talk to you about a blood test (called a PSA test) for prostate cancer.

2. Changes in Your Testicles

"If you notice a lump, heaviness, or any other change in your testicle, never delay having it looked at," says Herbert Lepor, MD, urology chairman at New York University Langone Medical Center. "Unlike prostate cancer, which grows slowly, testicular cancer can take off overnight." Your doctor will look for any problems with a physical exam, blood tests, and an ultrasound of your scrotum.

3. Blood in Your Pee or Stool

These can be among the first signs of cancer of the bladder, kidneys, or colon. It's a good idea to see your doctor for any bleeding that’s not normal, even if you don't have other symptoms, Lepor says. Although you're more likely to have a problem that's not cancer, like hemorrhoids or a urinary infection, it's important to find and treat the cause.

4. Skin Changes

When you notice a change in the size, shape, or color of a mole or other spot on your skin, see your doctor as soon as you can. Spots that are new or look different are top signs of skin cancer. You’ll need an exam and perhaps a biopsy, which means doctors remove a small piece of tissue for testing. With skin cancer, you don't want to wait, says Marleen Meyers, MD, an oncologist at NYU Perlmutter Cancer Center.

5. Changes in Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes, small bean-shaped glands found in your neck, armpits, and other places, often signal that something's going on in your body. Usually, they mean your immune system is fighting a sore throat or cold, but certain cancers also can make them change. Have your doctor check any swelling that doesn't get better in 2 to 4 weeks, Meyers says.

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