So how can you detect cancer before it’s too late? Apart from undergoing regular age-appropriate screening tests, there is a major role you can play in the detection process. You need to watch out for any signs and symptoms of cancer. In order to do this you must do two things:

  • Know your body and what is normal for you - Consult a physician if you identify anything that seems abnormal and if the symptom persists for more than 3 weeks
  • Spend time understanding the signs and symptoms of common cancers – You will then not ignore any symptom that might prove dangerous in the long run

There is also a convenient way to check for the signs and symptoms of cancer. Use the acronym ‘CAUTION’ to understand these better.

C – Change in bowel and/or bladder habits

We all have our set patterns of bowel and bladder movements. If you observe any change or alterations in them without any specific reason you must immediately take action and visit your doctor.

A – A sore that does not heal

A sore in the mouth or on the skin usually heals within 48 hours. If the sore does not heal for more than a week, do not ignore it.

U – Unusual bleeding or discharge

Minor bleeding from gums while brushing, bleeding during menstrual cycle for women or discharge from nipples while lactating is very common and natural. But if you are not on your menstrual cycle or not lactating and yet you find any bleeding from the vagina or discharge (of any color) from the nipples you must immediately consult your gynecologist. Similarly, if you find sudden or unusual bleeding from you gums or any previous wounds you should consult your physician.

T – Thickening or lump in the breast or any part of the body

If you experience any thickening on your skin or a lump in the breast or any part of the skin that was not there previously or has grown, you should be concerned and get yourself checked up. Most lumps are benign (non-cancerous) but should not be ignored.

I – Indigestion or difficulty swallowing

We all sometimes experience indigestion or find some food dry and difficult to swallow. If you experience indigestion or difficulty in swallowing without any specific reason or more frequently than before, you should bring it to the notice of a doctor.

O – Obvious change in a wart or mole

Warts and moles are growths on the skin. Warts usually appear when the top layer of the skin is affected by a virus. Moles are usually brown or black in color. They can appear on the skin anywhere on the body. Many of us must have observed a mole on our body. They can also be present by birth. Most of the times warts and/ or moles are benign (non-cancerous). Precaution needs to be taken when an already present wart or mole suddenly starts to grow. This is when you need to become alert and consult your physician.

N – Nagging cough or hoarseness

There are many reasons for one to experience cough or sore throat or hoarseness. Usually these go away with medication. But if the cough or hoarseness is persistent and lasts for more than 2 weeks, this is when you need to consult your physician.

If you observe any one of these, please visit your physician.

Having said that you need to look for the above symptoms, you are the master of your body. You know what is right and normal for you. So, when you notice any abnormal or sudden change in your body functions or response, you should not ignore it.

The section below describes some of the common cancers and their symptoms that affect women. Please remember that having any of the signs and symptoms does not mean that you have cancer – most symptoms could be due to other causes.