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Johns Hopkins Health - Cancer Signs You Can’t Ignore

Spring 2015
Issue No. 28

Cancer Signs You Can’t Ignore

Date: April 2, 2015

Are you missing out on warnings? Here’s what a Johns Hopkins expert wants you to know.


We’re all (rightly) fearful of getting cancer. Yet not all of us are alert to cancer’s earliest telltale signs. Early diagnosis gives you the best chance at successful treatment, so be aware of changes in your health that may signal cancer, says surgical oncologist Nita Ahuja, M.D. “By 2030, cancer will be the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., mostly because the population is aging,” she says. Don’t have a family history of cancer? That’s great—but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t educate yourself about cancer signs and get the recommended screenings. So what should you be looking for (without panicking)? Ahuja says to keep an eye out for any unusual—and inexplicable—changes.

These three health changes are definite call-the-doctor situations:

  1. Unexplained weight loss: A loss of 10 pounds or more when you’re not trying or haven’t changed your eating or exercise habits can be an early sign of pancreatic, stomach, lung or esophageal cancer.
  2. Blood in the stool: It could point to rectal or colon cancer.
  3. Mole changes: Any change in color, symmetry or size might signal skin cancer.

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