We get it. Most men do not like going to the doctor. The problem is that diseases like cancer happen, whether it’s diagnosed or not. This is why routine preventive care can find cancer in men and other diseases in the early stages, when there are more options for treatment and better chances of a cure.
Another way to be on guard against cancer? Being more alert to certain specific, sometimes subtle, cancer symptoms.
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Symptom 1: Breast Mass
If you’re like most men, you’ve probably never considered the possibility of having breast cancer. Although it’s not common, it is possible. “Any new mass in the breast area of a man needs to be checked out by a physician,” Lichtenfeld says.
In addition, the American Cancer Society identifies several other worrisome signs involving the breast that men as well as women should take note of. They include:
• Skin dimpling or puckering
• Nipple retraction
• Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
• Nipple discharge
When you consult your physician about any of these signs, expect them to take a careful history and do a physical exam. Then, depending on the findings, the doctor may order a mammogram, a biopsy, or other tests.
Symptom 2: Pain
As they age, people often complain of more aches and pains. But pain, as vague as it may be, can be an early symptom of some cancers although most pain complaints are not from cancer.
Any pain that persists, according to the American Cancer Society, should be checked out by your physician. The doctor can take a careful history, get more details, and then decide whether further testing is necessary, and if so what kind. If it’s not cancer, you will still benefit from the visit to the office. That’s because the doctor can work with you to find out what’s causing the pain and help you know what to do about it.
Symptom 3: Changes in the Testicles
Testicular cancer occurs most often in men aged 20 to 39. The American Cancer Society recommends that men get a testicular exam by a doctor as part of a routine cancer-related checkup. And some doctors suggest a monthly self-exam.
Yu says that being aware of troublesome testicular symptoms between exams is wise. “Any change in the size of the testicles, such as growth or shrinkage,” Yu says, “should be a concern.” In addition, swelling or a lump should not be ignored. Nor should a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum. Some testicular cancers occur very quickly. So early detection is especially crucial. Yu recalls a young man who waited until his testicle was the size of a grapefruit before coming in for help. “If you feel a hard lump of coal in your testicle, get it checked right away,” Yu says.
Your doctor will do a testicular exam and an overall assessment of your health. If cancer is suspected, blood tests may be ordered. You may undergo an ultrasound examination of your scrotum. Your doctor may also decide to do a biopsy, taking a tiny sample of testicular tissue to examine it for cancer.
Symptom 4: Fever
If you’ve got an unexplained fever, it may indicate cancer. It could also be a sign of pneumonia or some other illness that needs treatment.
Most cancers will cause fever at some point. Often, fever occurs after the cancer has spread from its original site and invaded another part of the body. But it can also be caused by blood cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia, according to the American Cancer Society. It’s best not to ignore a fever that can’t be explained. Check with your doctor to find out what might be causing it and if anything needs to be done.