It’s a joke that’s been made plenty of times: Men never visit the doctor, and it’s only after much prodding from their partners that they find themselves in a waiting room.
But, as serious health issues like heart disease and cancer continue to plague men and women alike, is it anything to laugh at? With a one in four risk of dying from cancer during their lifetime, men can’t afford to put their health on the back burner.
Below, we explore some of the most commonly overlooked cancer symptoms for men, and why they’re so significant.
A persistent cough can hardly seem like a symptom of cancer. After all, isn’t it usually just an indicator of allergies or a cold?
“A cough that lasts for more than two or three weeks, especially if it’s not accompanied by other cold or allergy symptoms, could be an early indication of lung cancer,” explains Veeraiah Siripurapu, MD, surgical oncologist at Lankenau Medical Center.
Although a persistent cough can be worrisome enough to report to your physician, make an appointment as soon as possible if it’s accompanied by symptoms like chest pain or blood when you cough.
Just as women are encouraged to conduct regular self breast exams, men should be aware of any significant changes to their testicles. If one or both feel particularly swollen or heavy, or if you feel a lump that wasn’t there before, talk to your physician. Changes in testicular landscape could be a sign of testicular cancer, which typically affect younger and middle-aged men.
That heartburn could just be a result of spicy food, but it could also be a cancer symptom.
Heartburn or trouble swallowing may be a symptom of esophageal, stomach, or throat cancer that shouldn’t be ignored, but that many men are quick to chalk up to a common sign of aging. If you’re experiencing a burning sensation in your throat or chest that lasts for a long period of time, especially if you don’t usually experience heartburn, talk to your physician about your symptoms.
Changes in your bathroom habits
Not many people, regardless of gender, are eager to talk about their bathroom habits. But factors like blood in your stool, difficulty urinating, unexplained erectile dysfunction, or blood in your urine or semen are all signs that something isn’t right.
Some men are quick to pass off these symptoms as a result of other causes, like hemorrhoids, or just ignore them altogether for awhile, thinking that they’ll go away. But Dr. Paul Gilman, medical oncologist at Lankenau Medical Center tells men that when it comes to asking questions, sooner is better.
“Symptoms like these can be indicative of prostate or colon cancer which, if ignored, may not be caught until they are in more aggressive stages. Don’t wait until then to ask questions. Talk to your physician or an urologist about symptoms like these,” he says.
When most people lose weight, they’re excited to see the number on the scale go down. But if you’re losing weight unintentionally or have a significant decrease in your appetite and there’s no other obvious reason—like a diet or major life event—causing it, it’s worth asking about.
Sudden weight loss or loss of appetite can be indicative of many different cancers, including esophageal, pancreatic, liver, and colon cancer, as well as leukemia and lymphoma.
If you’re balancing a busy career and family life, while still trying to find time to squeeze in exercise and time with friends, it’s no wonder that you’ll feel a little tired every now and then. But when you find yourself yawning through every day, it’s time to talk to a physician.
“Fatigue can be a symptom of leukemia and lymphoma. Although, in most cases, persistent sleepiness won’t turn out to be a cancer diagnosis, it’s best to see a physician to determine what the cause is and how you can address it,” explains Dr. Siripurapu.
Remember, don’t just refer to this list for a list of cancer symptoms. Headaches that you’re not used to, a persistent neck pain, lower back pain…if you’re experiencing aches and pains that won’t go away, talk to your physician to explain your symptoms. Pain is the first sign that something is wrong.
Worried about cancer symptoms you might be overlooking? Main Line Health's team of cancer specialists offers a comprehensive range of services and the most up-to-date advances in the fight against cancer. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.