“Cancer” is a terrifying word. Hearing it can make you feel powerless. Arming yourself with the knowledge to spot the early alarming signs is, therefore, one of the very best things you can do.
Doctors often remind us to learn the symptoms of skin cancer so that we know what to look for. But what happens when looking falls short? There are several invisible signifiers that could suggest skin cancer is looming on the horizon, but luckily, you can reclaim agency over your health if you know what they are.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their life.” Healthy Way reminds us that skin cancer is the easiest of all cancers to treat, if detected early. But the symptoms often go unnoticed.
Fear not; we’ve got the information to change all that. Here are seven “invisible symptoms” to watch out for; if you spot one, hotfoot it to the doctor. It might just save your life.
1. Lumps under the skin
One early warning sign of skin cancer could be a “lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin,” says Mayo Clinic. Check regularly, because you won’t notice them otherwise; a weekly body scan for lumps and bumps on your neck, groin, and armpits may indicate abnormal activity in your lymph nodes.
2. An itch without a cause
If the sensation on the surface or just under your skin changes for no reason, then don’t ignore it. Itching is an ambiguous symptom, but persistent itching with no obvious cause could be a warning sign. Look into it.
3. Mysterious joint pain
Of course, if you work outdoors, with kids, or in an office you will be no stranger to repetitive strain injury. But persistent joint or muscle pain for no known reason is a red flag. Your bones are one of the places a melanoma can spread, causing pain not unlike that of arthritis.
4. Pain in your abdomen
Abdominal pain is common and can indicate a number of conditions, many of them trivial, so don’t panic. However, cancer that has spread to your liver can cause pain in the upper-right quadrant of your abdomen, advises Dr. Jeremy Davis of UCLA Health.
If abdominal pain becomes persistent or is accompanied by any other symptoms, then see your physician.
5. Areas of numbness
Skin cancer can affect your nerves and may even cause numbness. Don’t ignore numbness; like others, it is a symptom that could indicate any number of underlying conditions. But if it occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, then take it seriously and see your doctor.
6. Blurry vision
Skin cancer can affect the pigment-producing cells in your skin. If you develop a melanoma in or around the colored cells of your eye, you may suffer blurry vision as a preliminary symptom.
“You might also see pigments or discolorations in the iris of the eye,” UCLA’s Dr. Davis added. If blurry vision is impeding your ability to get to the doctor, then enlist the help of a friend or family member. You’d do the same for them.
7. Breathing difficulties
Difficulty breathing, unlike some of the more common invisible symptoms of skin cancer, is always alarming. It may not seem intuitive to link difficulty breathing to a red flag for cancer, but as cancer spreads, it can provoke some surprising symptoms.
Shortness of breath, a hoarse throat, or a persistent cough could indicate any number of things, but among them is skin cancer. Be sure to get it checked out as quickly as possible.
These seven symptoms represent the “rare exceptions,” says Prevention.com. But if you fall into the unlucky 1 percent of folk who don’t get a visible warning sign, then consider yourself armed with the knowledge you need to spot skin cancer trouble before it gets too serious.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, then do right by yourself and head straight to your physician. Information is power.