13 Signs of Cancer Men Are Likely to Ignore

Many men’s cancer signs can mimic symptoms of other diseases or conditions—and many men are notorious for delaying doctors’ visits—so it’s easy to ignore them. But it’s important to know your body and see a doctor about these or any unusual pains or other changes.

Difficulty urinating

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/TheDman

If it’s consistently difficult to urinate, or there’s blood in your urine or semen, or if you experience unexplained erectile dysfunction, see your doctor; these could be symptoms of prostate cancer. “Unfortunately, there aren’t noticeable symptoms of prostate cancer until the aggressive stages,” says Moshe Shike, MD, gastroenterologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Dr. Shike says he frequently sees patients who ignore these symptoms for up to six months before they seek help, but the sooner you check out your symptoms, the better.

Reader’s Digest is working with Stand Up to Cancer, an initiative that funds groundbreaking research projects to help bring new treatments to patients faster. Here’s how you can join the movement to help END CANCER in our lifetimes.

Testicular changes

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/monkeybusinessimages

Just as women should be familiar with how their breasts look and feel, men should pay attention to their testicles. If you notice changes in size (to one or both), if they feel swollen or extra heavy, or if you feel a lump, these symptoms could indicate testicular cancer, says Maurie Markman, MD, an oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Testicular cancer is most common in young and middle-aged men.

Noticeable skin changes

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/AlexRaths

Men over 50 are about twice as likely as women to develop and die from skin cancer; young men account for 40 percent of melanoma cases, but 60 percent of melanoma deaths, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Why? A study by the National Sun Protection Advisory Council found that men spend more time in the sun than women and are less likely to wear sunscreen; men also have less hair covering their scalp and ears, two areas where they tend to develop cancer. Also, traditionally men visit the doctor less often than women do, so their cancers may not be caught as early. It's easy to miss the early warning signs of skin cancer, says Rich Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society. “Many people think freckles, moles, or a darker age spot is just like the others they’ve had,” he explains. If you notice a mole getting darker, larger, or becoming raised, get it checked. With melanoma, spots are often irregularly shaped (not round), significantly darker in color, or even two distinctly different colors within one spot, he says. “Melanoma is far less common than other skin cancers, but has the potential to be more deadly,” says Dr. Wender. “However, many melanomas have a long period where they’re not invasive and easy to cure, as long as they’re caught early.”

Content continues below ad

Sores or pain in your mouth

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/alexx60

A cold sore that heals is probably nothing to worry about, nor is a toothache that goes away after a trip to the dentist. But if you notice sores that don’t heal, pain that sticks around, white or red patches on the gums or tongue, and any swelling or numbness of the jaw, it could be a sign of some mouth cancers. Men who smoke or use chewing tobacco have an increased risk of developing mouth cancer, says Dr. Markman. “More men smoke than women. Smokers and users of chewing tobacco need to be far more concerned with sores in their mouth that do not heal quickly, compared to non smokers,” he says.

Chronic coughing

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/Wavebreakmedia

A cough that lasts three weeks or more—without other symptoms, such as a cold or allergies—could be an early symptom of lung cancer. Leukemia can also lead to bronchitis-like symptoms. “If it’s different than your regular cough and if it persists, or you cough up a little blood, that’s significant,” says Dr. Markman. Some lung cancer patients report chest pain that extends up into the shoulder or down the arm.

Blood in your stool

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/Andy Kettle

It could be hemorrhoids or something benign—but it could also be a symptom of colon cancer. Routine screening typically starts at age 50, but cases are becoming more common in younger adults, which is why it’s important to see a doctor for any suspicious symptoms. “It’s easy to dismiss it as hemorrhoids or constipation, and if the problem comes and goes, people reassure themselves that nothing’s wrong, especially younger people,” says Dr. Wender. “But blood in a bowel movement is never normal, so get it checked out.”

Content continues below ad

Stomach pain or nausea

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/Wavebreak

Everyday digestive distress is rarely cancer—but you should see a doctor if you notice persistent stomach cramps or are starting to feel nauseous all the time. It could be something as simple as an ulcer, but it could also signal leukemia or esophageal, liver, pancreatic, or colorectal cancer.

Frequent fevers or infections

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/fakezzz

If you’re usually healthy but notice yourself getting sick or feverish more frequently, it could be an early sign of leukemia. This blood cancer triggers the body to produce abnormal white blood cells, which weakens the body’s infection-fighting abilities. Be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms that don’t go away.

Difficulty swallowing

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/g-stockstudio

A sore throat that persists for a few weeks and gets worse could be a symptom of throat or stomach cancer, as well as an early sign of lung cancer.

Content continues below ad

Excessive bruising

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/Sasiistock

A random bruise is probably nothing to worry about, but if you start to notice bruises popping up all the time, especially in places you wouldn’t normally get them, like your hands or fingers, see a doctor. Unusual bruising can be a leukemia symptom, according to Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Over time, leukemia impairs the blood’s ability to carry oxygen and clot.

Unexplained weight loss

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/AndreyPopov

“Weight loss for a lot of Americans is a good thing—everyone’s dieting—but if you have less appetite when you usually have a good appetite, and there’s no big life event or problems happening to cause that, get it checked out,” says Dr. Markman. Losing weight can be a side effect of many different cancers such as esophageal, pancreatic, liver, and colon, but it’s an especially common symptom of leukemia or lymphoma, says Dr. Wender. These are 15 things cancer doctors do to prevent cancer themselves.

Persistent fatigue

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/monkeybusinessimages

Everyone has low-energy days. However, if you feel tired every day for more than a month, or experience shortness of breath when you didn’t before, see a doctor, says Dr. Wender. Leukemia and lymphoma commonly cause persistent fatigue. “Most of the time it won’t be cancer, but get it checked because you never know,” he says. These are other medical reasons you could be tired all the time.

Content continues below ad

Chronic headaches

Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, iStock/PeopleImages

If you’re not prone to migraines and never get headaches, but suddenly find yourself popping pain meds all the time, it could be a sign of a brain tumor, which causes pain by pressing on nerves.

Join the movement to end cancer!

Courtesy Stand Up To Cancer

Featuring performances from top recording artists and celebrities from film, television, and sports, Stand Up To Cancer will appeal to the public for donations to fund cutting-edge cancer research. Stand Up To Cancer is working with its scientific partner, the prestigious American Association for Cancer Research, to present illuminating scientific information. Produced by Bradley Cooped, the program will include celebrity phone and multimedia banks that will allow you to interact with participating talent. You can also donate at standup2cancer.org. One hundred percent of donations received from the general public will support Stand Up To Cancer’s collaborative cancer-research programs. Stand Up To Cancer airs Friday, September 9 (8 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET live/ PT tape-delayed) on over 40 networks, broadcasters, and cable providers in the United States and Canada. Click here to join the movement to help END CANCER in our lifetimes.

View as Slideshow

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.