At-home cancer checks you can do during COVID-19 restrictions

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(BPT) – Being aware of how you feel is always important, especially during COVID-19. In addition to flagging symptoms of the coronavirus, you should note other changes to your health as well. Being aware of how your body looks and feels is particularly important when it comes to cancer.

Right now many clinics are limiting checkups and other nonessential appointments, and when they open up fully again, these appointments might be difficult to get. The medical experts at Minnesota Oncology agree that it’s important to be aware of changes and do cancer screenings at home so you can alert your physician of any warning signs.

Minnesota Oncology’s 12 Twin Cities locations are open and accepting new patients, with telehealth options available as well as safety measures in place to protect patients who need to go into clinics. For more information, visit mnoncology.com.

Unexplained pain
If you experience an injury, you’ll probably have some pain. However, if you have pain without a reason in your joints, bones, lower legs, abdominal muscles or lower back, this could be a warning sign. Additionally, ongoing pain during intercourse and pain when coughing should be discussed with your doctor.

Unusual bleeding

Contact your doctor if you notice any of the following unexpected bleeding:

  • Bleeding from a mole or wart you did not scratch.
  • Blood in your urine.
  • Blood in semen.
  • Vomiting, spitting or coughing blood.
  • Frequent nosebleeds.
  • Vaginal bleeding outside of the normal cycle or bleeding or spotting after menopause.
Changes in bathroom habits
Changes in your bathroom habits can be an early indicator of various conditions, including urinary tract, colorectal or prostate cancer. Know what’s normal for your body and note any changes that occur for more than a few days. If you have pain or difficulty going to the bathroom or the constant urge to urinate or have a bowel movement, speak with your doctor.
Changes to your skin
Skin cancer is very common, and while it impacts people with pale skin more often, people with dark skin can get it also. Here are red flags to discuss with your doctor:
  • Any changes to moles, freckles or birthmarks.
  • Changes in skin color or texture.
  • Unexplained bruising or bright red spots.
  • A small dome-shaped bump that is pink or purple and growing.
Breast self-awareness
You know your normal breast tissue, so by performing regular self-exams you can note any changes. Both men and women should contact their doctor if they notice any lumps or inflammation. A simple way to do a breast self-exam is to lift your hand to your head and use the pads of your fingers on the other hand to feel the breast tissue in a circular pattern. Then reverse by checking the other breast with the other hand.
Changes in the mouth or throat
Watch for changes in your oral health and speak with your doctor if you notice any:
  • Pain or numbness in your mouth.
  • Pain when swallowing.
  • Hoarseness that lasts more than two weeks.
  • Mouth ulcers that don’t go away.
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking.
  • A swelling on one side of your neck.
  • Changes to your bite.
  • Excess saliva.
  • Change in the pitch of your voice that lasts for more than two weeks.
Persistent fever
A persistent low-grade fever of about 100 is a sign that something is wrong. It may be COVID-19, so call to see if you should get tested. If the test is negative and the fever continues, it could be a sign your body is fighting another problem. Speak with your doctor about next steps.
If you notice any of the above changes or anything out of the ordinary, remember that it doesn’t mean you have cancer. What it means is you should have an honest conversation with your doctor about your observations and concerns to determine the best next steps for your health and wellness.