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What are the 'CAUTION' Signs of Cancer?

What are the 'CAUTION' Signs of Cancer?

Cancer is a deadly disease, but one way of ensuring survival is early detection, as knowing the warning signs of cancer can help you seek treatment sooner. This is where knowing the CAUTION for signs and symptoms of cancer comes in.

Cancer: All You Need to Know

CAUTION: Signs and symptoms of cancer

The mnemonic CAUTION is widely used as a means of remembering the warning signs of cancer. It lists down the most common signs and symptoms of cancer in a manner that’s easy to remember and understand.

This mnemonic is not designed as a way of diagnosing cancer, but more of a guide to give you an idea if you should be worried about any symptoms that you might experience.

If you experience any combination of the following symptoms, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor about getting screened for cancer.

C – Change in bowel or bladder habits

The first one is C, which stands for a change in bowel or bladder habits.

This can manifest in different ways, which include the following:

  • Blood in your urine or feces
  • Sudden diarrhea or constipation without any changes in your diet
  • A feeling that you still have to defecate right after going to the toilet
  • Sudden, unexplained pain in your stomach, or your anus
  • Feeling bloated

If you experience any combination of these symptoms for more than a few weeks, then it would be a good idea to visit your doctor.

This is because changes in bowel or bladder habits can be a possible sign of colon cancer or bowel cancer. In particular, if you notice any blood in your urine or feces, it should be a cause for concern.

Could Persistent Diarrhea be a Symptom of Cancer?

A – A sore or lesion that does not heal

Sores or lesions in the body can be the result of many different things. For the most part, sores or lesions should not be a cause for concern if they heal over time.

However, if you notice that a sore or lesion in your body does not seem to be healing properly, or is even getting worse, then a doctor’s visit could help determine the reason behind this.

Wounds or lesions that fail to heal could be a possible sign of leukemia, or cancer of the blood. This is because leukemia affects the number of platelets in a person’s blood, and platelets are responsible for wound healing.

U – Unusual bleeding or discharge

Any form of unexplained bleeding should be a cause for concern.

Examples of unusual bleeding include the following:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Blood in your stool
  • Bleeding from the anus
  • Blood when you cough
  • Blood in your vomit
  • Bleeding from your vagina when you are not on your period

Unusual bleeding can be a sign of different types of cancers, including ovarian cancer, colon cancer, uterine cancer, stomach cancer, and rectal cancer.

If you experience any unusual and persistent bleeding, it would be wise to talk to your doctor about it.

It might not necessarily be a sign of cancer, but it could also be a sign of another serious illness as unusual bleeding is not normal.

T – Thickening or lump in the breast or somewhere in the body

The letter T in CAUTION stands for thickening or lump in the breast or somewhere in the body.

A thickening of the tissues or any unexplained lumps could mean that there is a tumor somewhere in the body.

Tumors can either be malignant or benign. A benign tumor means that it is just a growth of tissue that generally is not a cause for concern. On the other hand, malignant tumors are cancer.

One way of finding out if a tumor is malignant or benign is to get a biopsy or a tissue sample tested. This can help your doctor identify whether or not a growth or lump in your body is cancerous or not.

What You Need to Know About Benign vs Malignant Tumors

I – Indigestion or difficulty swallowing

One of the warning signs of cancer is indigestion or difficulty swallowing. These symptoms are a possible sign of esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, or pancreatic cancer.

Due to the tumor blocking the food, a person develops pain when swallowing, or have a feeling that there is a lump stuck in their throat.

Indigestion on the other hand, is one of the common signs of pancreatic cancer. This can cause a painful or burning feeling in the chest, or a bitter, unpleasant taste in the mouth.

It is important to note, however, that these symptoms are not necessarily exclusive to cancer. Other health problems can also manifest these symptoms, so it would be a good idea to still seek medical attention.

O – Obvious change in a mole or wart

Among the warning signs of cancer, an obvious change in a mole or wart is one of the easiest to spot.

If you notice that you have a mole or a wart that changes color, grows bigger or shrinks, or even moves to a different location, then it might be a sign that there is a cancerous growth in that area.

One cancer most commonly associated with this symptom is skin cancer.

If you notice this warning sign, it would be wise to get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible in order to get it checked immediately.

N – Nagging cough or chronic hoarseness

A nagging cough or chronic hoarseness could be a sign of esophageal cancer.

One major cause of this type of cancer is smoking, and the problem is that these symptoms are also common among smokers.

This is the reason why throat cancer and esophageal cancer can be difficult to detect in its initial stages, because smokers might not readily notice these warning signs of cancer.

If you are a smoker, it would be best to quit as soon as possible in order to lower your risk of not just throat or esophageal cancer, but also lung cancer as well.

caution signs of cancer

There are also two other symptoms that are sometimes used with the CAUTION signs and symptoms of cancer acronym. These symptoms are not always present in most types of cancer, but are still important symptoms to watch out for.

U – Unexplained anemia

Anemia is a condition wherein a person lacks healthy blood cells in their body. The common symptoms include fatigue, paleness, weakness, chest pain, brittle nails, and cold hands and feet.

Any unexplained anemia should be a cause for concern, and it is important to consult your doctor as soon as possible if you experience these symptoms.

S – Sudden weight loss

Lastly, sudden weight loss is another common symptom of cancer. This is especially worrisome if you have not been under a lot of stress, or have not made any changes in your diet.

If you were perfectly healthy and you suddenly experience weight loss, then it should be a definite cause for concern.

Talking to your doctor about it can help you identify what could be the probable cause of your sudden weight loss, and if you should be worried about it.

Key Takeaways

One of the most important measures to deal with cancer is early detection. The sooner cancer can be detected, the better the outcome could be for the patient.

This is why it is important to listen to your body, and to not ignore any unusual signs and symptoms that you might be experiencing.

Noticing even just a small and unusual change could save your life.

So be sure to check your body for any signs and symptoms of cancer, and do not hesitate to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Learn more about cancer, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


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Pancreatic cancer signs and symptoms | Pancreatic Cancer UK, https://www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/information-and-support/facts-about-pancreatic-cancer/signs-and-symptoms-of-pancreatic-cancer/#:~:text=Indigestion%20(dyspepsia)%20can%20sometimes%20be,t%20usually%20due%20to%20cancer., Accessed August 12 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated May 19
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.