The 10 ‘most prevalent’ cancer symptoms – seen in up to 84% of people diagnosed

Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for

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Cancer statistics reflected a sorry state of affairs before the pandemic hit. Now cancer delays are expected to cost thousands of lives in the UK. Despite the gloomy picture, symptom detection is still the best weapon in the fight against cancer. Here, there are some encouraging signs.

Research over the years has sought to rank the symptoms of cancer by prevalence.

One study, published in Supportive Care in Cancer, investigated the effects of age, gender, and performance status on symptom profile.

A comprehensive analysis of symptoms was conducted in 1,000 patients on initial referral to the Palliative Medicine Program of the Cleveland Clinic.

The median number of symptoms per patient was 11.

The researchers found the ten “most prevalent” symptoms were pain, easy fatigue, weakness, anorexia (loss of appetite), lack of energy, dry mouth, constipation, early satiety, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and greater than 10 percent weight loss.

The prevalence of these 10 symptoms ranged from 50 percent to 84 percent.

Younger age was associated with the following 11 symptoms: blackout, vomiting, pain, nausea, headache, sedation, bloating, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, and constipation.

What’s more, gender was associated with eight symptoms.

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Males had more dysphagia, hoarseness, more than 10 percent weight loss and sleep problems; females, more early satiety, nausea, vomiting, and anxiety.

The researchers concluded: “Ten symptoms are highly prevalent. Symptom prevalence for 24 individual symptoms differs with age, or gender, or performance status.”

General tips for spotting cancer

Changes to your body’s normal processes or unusual, unexplained symptoms can sometimes be an early sign of cancer.

In many cases your symptoms will not be related to cancer and will be caused by other, non-cancerous health conditions.

Symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain may also be a sign of a condition such as pneumonia.

Nonetheless, “it’s important to speak to a GP so they can investigate”, advises the NHS.

How to reduce your risk

Prevention is better than a cure and there are proven ways to mitigate the risk of cancer.

Top of the pile is to avoid tobacco at all costs.

Harvard Health explains: “Avoid tobacco in all its forms, including exposure to secondhand smoke. You don’t have to be an international scientist to understand how you can try to protect yourself and your family.”

According to the health body, eating properly is also vital: “Reduce your consumption of saturated fat and red meat, which may increase the risk of colon cancer and a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.”

It advises increasing your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

You should also:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Stay lean. Obesity increases the risk of many forms of cancer. Calories count; if you need to slim down, take in fewer calories and burn more with exercise.
  • If you choose to drink, limit yourself to an average of one drink a day.

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