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The American Cancer Society has been educating the public about cancer detection methods since 1922. Originally, only two warning signs were published; however, for more than 40 years, there have been seven warning signs.

Regional Cancer Centre, Trivandrum has developed an innovative low cost strategy utilizing trained unemployed youth for a cancer screening cum detection survey using modified 13 warning signals of cancer as a screening strategy to pick up high risk cases.

The following are the warning signals:                                                                                     


Warning signals of oral cancer and precancerous lesions

 Cancer of the oral cavity is predominantly seen among those who chew tobacco.The red and white coloured patches ,non healing ulcers of long duration, ulcers caused by sharp tooth etc has to be shown to a doctor.Inability to tolerate spices along with glistening appearence of the tongue and lining of cheeks especially in tobacco habituees needs medical attention.

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Warning signals of breast cancer

  Lump in the breast which is increasing in size and or causing pain and changes in the overlying skin is a warning symptom.Red or brown coloured discharge from the nipple or any swelling in the axilla needs to be investigated.


Warning signals of uterine cervical cancer

            Bleeding per vagina after intercourse ,excess discharge from the vagina, bleeding after attaining menopause and bleeding between menstrual periods are symptoms that needs a consultation with a gynaecologist.


Head and Neck cancer

Painless enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck, appearance of tumours or nodules in the neck especially in tobacco habituees and alcoholics are one of the warning signals of head and neck cancers. There are many benign conditions where the same
symptoms can occur.


Prostate cancer

Frequency, urgency and difficulty in passing urine with or without blood in males above 50 years needs medical help.


Gastro intenstinal cancer or Colorectal cancer

Bleeding per rectum with altered bowel habits like constipation alternating with diarrhoea and passing mucous with abdominal discomfort can be a warning signal of gastrointestinal cancer or colorectal cancer - consult a Surgeon.


Skin cancer

Changes in moles or pigmented skin lesions like appearance of fissuring, ridges, furrows and ulceration in the moles, appearance of satellite lesions, itching with bleeding and sudden enlargement of pigmented moles can be warning signals
of skin cancer in rare cases.


Cancer of larynx(Vocal cord)

Progressive hoarseness of voice ulitmately resulting in absence of sound especially in a smoker or alcoholic can be warning symptom of cancer of larynx(vocal cord).


Cancer of the Oesophagus

Progressive dysphagia i.e. difficulty in swallowing solid food and later on leading to difficulty in drinking can be a warning signal of cancer oesophagus - consult a Gastroentrologist. Similar complaints can be present in psychosomatic patients and in some
other benign conditions.



Swelling or enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck, bony swellings or tumour anywhere in the body can be a signal of benign or malignant tumour - Consult a surgeon.



Combined symptoms of lymph nodular enlargement, pallor, loss of weight, fatigue, bleeding gums, weakness, recurrent fever and bone pain may be a warning symptom of leukaemia.


Non healing ulcers

Non healing ulcers of long duration anywhere in the body which is not responding to antibiotic treatment may transform to malignancy and hence it is advisable to consult a surgeon.


Bleeding from any orifice like nose, ear, anus, vagina, mouth or from the conjuctiva may be warning signal of cancer in rare cases.
Any individual having any of the above mentioned warning signals need not panic as it does not mean that they have cancer. But they should consult a doctor so that they can have the necessary investigations done to rule out cancer.

© 2011 Thiruvananthapuram Regional Cancer Center