Before anything else, let me get this straight: I’m not trying to turn you into a hypochondriac.
However, it’s always always better to be safe than sorry. If you have a persistent symptom that won’t go away, a constant ache or itching, or even a feeling that something is just not right, I say trust your gut feeling and have yourself checked by a doctor. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
A night ago, I came across this Reddit thread where Redditors shared their stories about their “small” almost overlooked symptoms that they should have looked into earlier because they turned out to be something serious.
While this is not meant to scare anyone, I hope sharing their stories will help us gain some knowledge about certain medical conditions and — who knows — maybe save a life one day.
(Some entries have been edited for clarity, spelling, or grammar.)
“I owe my life to my barber. When I was 17 he noticed a mole on the top of my head, and said I should get that looked at. I went to get it checked out and ended up having it cut out with a scalpel. Turns out that it was cancerous but at the very early stages. They did a little more cutting and were able to get everything out. Almost 20 years ago, and life is good.” – AngryCotton
“My dad has a lot of moles and my mom forced him to go to the dermatologist because he hadn’t been in years. She was worried about a few of the big moles that she thought might be getting bigger. The dermatologist pointed one out and asked if that was one they were concerned about and no, my mom said that one actually seemed like it was getting smaller so why would she be concerned? Doctor informed my parents they were doing a biopsy right there and then and cut a 1.5 inch long chunk out of my dad’s back. It was melanoma. The really bad skin cancer. It turns out, if a mole is getting smaller, it’s probably because the immune system has a reason to attack it.” – notsolittleliongirl
2. Abnormal growth
“I was much taller than my family. Family are all around 5’5″ but I was 6’5″ by high school. We always joked I was a freak or won the genetic lottery. Went to my father’s doctor for a physical who noticed the swelling in my hands and ran a blood test. Turns out my growth hormone levels were about 3 times the normal amount. I was diagnosed with Acromegaly.” – CrustyHamSandwich
“My 2yo daughter would lie on her left side on the floor randomly during the day, she walked with a wide step, and finally multiple diagnosis for constipation. Abdominal Embryonic Rhabdomyosarcoma. After 54 weeks of chemotherapy strolling through an unimaginable medical hell, she is 4 and almost a year in remission and hard to keep up with. Like she’s discovering everything pain free for the first time.” – Voltusfive2
4. Random spotting
“My Mum had some light (like one or two drops, three times a year), spotting. For context she was well past menopause. She mentioned it to her GP and he sent her for a test. Uterine Cancer. Caught it at stage one before it spread, so was able to have a hysterectomy without needing chemo or radiation therapy. Thank Christ her seemingly small and insignificant symptom was checked out.” – mk_skully
“I was spotting (mildly bleeding) after sex, spotting between periods, just generally sp
otting on and off randomly. For the first 3 years it was blamed on teenage hormones, then I was given pregnancy and STD tests despite not being sexually active yet. At 18 years old- after multiple negative pregnancy tests and STD tests, they finally took a pap smear- and found pre cancerous cells stage 1. Then the doctor scheduled a follow up and a biopsy- by the time the biopsy results come back it’d progressed to stage 3. If it went any longer I would have had full blown cervical cancer.” – rio94
5. Frequent migraines
“My sister started to get frequent migraines just after she turned 22. Frustratingly, she DID look into it- they happened more and more often, she went to the doctor, who waved it off as stemming from stress (her husband had just been sent to Afghanistan). My mom pushed for a CT scan, which the doctor said was unnecessary. My sister went home without any kind of prescription and a suggestion to come back in a few months if it persisted.
Well, a few weeks later, she had a massive seizure. Got taken to the emergency room where doctors discovered a massive tumour in her brain and diagnosed her with a rare form of brain cancer. She died within a year.” – buttershovel
6. Painful periods
“Increasingly painful periods and nasty PMS symptoms in general. Family doctor attributed the change to age and just wouldn’t take it seriously. After a year of complaints the doctor prescribed birth control pills, which did nothing. After two years I finally lost it and cried in her office. The cramps had gone from ‘hmm… this is a bit more than usual’ to full-on WTF 8/10, white-knuckle puking level pain. I asked to please, please be referred to an OBGYN.
When the gynecologist examined me, he also did an ultrasound in the office. He took one look at the screen, told me I could dress and he’d be right back. When he returned, he was carrying his surgery bookings schedule. A few weeks later I had a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingectomy (tubes out).
It would usually take up to a year to book that surgery, but he said he absolutely had to find me a spot. He was horrified I hadn’t been seen much sooner and described my uterus as ‘more tumour than healthy tissue; it looks more like a raspberry than a pear.’” – my_random_thots
7. Craving for iceberg lettuce
“I started craving iceberg lettuce like you wouldn’t believe. Like I’d wake up in the middle of the night and go to fridge just to eat handfuls of lettuce. At my worst, I was eating an entire bag of iceberg lettuce a day, no dressing or toppings, just munching on it like it was popcorn at the movie theatre.
Finally decided I should drag myself to the doctor for a few blood tests, assuming I was a bit dehydrated or vitamin deficient or something. My hemoglobin was 5 when it should be 13-16, ideally. My ferritin (iron stores) level was 1, which is literally as low as the test goes. I went straight from the doctor’s office to the hospital to be admitted for two blood transfusions and an IV iron infusion. The hospital staff couldn’t believe I’d been walking around and even working overtime with a level that low for months. Within 24 hours of my blood and iron transfusions, my lettuce craving went away.” – lovetheblazer
“(My best friend) had this thing where her hand would spasm. It was kind of like a hand tremor. I just assumed that it was a tic. Once, when I asked her about it, she said that she had pins and needles, so I also considered that she might just be shaking it off (even though the tremors were obviously an involuntary movement).
That’s really all there was. There were no other symptoms. She was fine for a really long time and then, suddenly, she just rapidly declined within the space of 24 hours.
We were in class when she went down and started seizing. Just as quick as she’d gone down, she was awake again and fine. My teacher took her to the nurse and the nurse called her parents. I’ve had to work hard to try and not be angry at the fact her parents chose to take her home that night instead of taking her straight to the emergency room. She had a headache, so they gave her ibuprofen and put her to bed. She died sometime in the night of an undiagnosed brain tumour.
Often, brain tumours are misdiagnosed as psychiatric issues. So if you notice a rapid decline in your mental health/stability without any clear reason, or even with a reason, get a scan done.” – SeaBeeDecodesLife
9. Pain after alcohol consumption
“I experienced a pain in my left shoulder whenever I consumed alcohol, which for me was an infrequent beer. It was odd, but not too concerning, since I didn’t drink very often. Turns out, I had Hodgkins lymphoma, and the pain in lymph nodes on the consumption of alcohol was a symptom seen in only a very small percentage of cases.” – vaguerant64
10. High resting heart rate
“High resting heart rate. I had a Fitbit and didn’t wear it for a few months. When I went back to it my RHR was 90+ from 54. Went to the Dr and found I was in hypertensive crisis with a BP of 212/104.” – perfik09
11. Always thirsty, frequent urination
“I had a bit of a throat infection so it hurt to swallow most things. Chocolate milk and sweet tea felt good, water at least didn’t hurt. I avoided the doctor thinking it would go way and just kept drinking. At about the one week into being sick and mostly drinking sugar water I realised I was always super thirsty so I redouble by drinking. I was peeing like once an hour but didn’t think anything of it since I was drinking so much. Finally go to the doctor who does vitals and my blood pressure was dangerously high. They do more tests and my blood sugar was about six times normal levels. Turns out i was driving myself straight into a diabetic episode by self treating an infection with sugar water. After some research I found that the unquenchable thirst and frequent urination are warning signs you need to get to the doctor.” – SomeCallMeWaffles
12. Wounds that are not healing
“My dad scraped his cheek with a branch while working. After a few weeks, it still wasn’t healing. He figured he had opened the wound while sleeping and gave it no after thought. Fast forward three months, wound still unhealed, he starts feeling weird things around it, so he goes to a dermatologist. Skin cancer.” – erqq
13. Severe back pain
“I had severe back pain as a 9 year old child. I would come home crying from softball practice my parents forced me to go to, and they never believed me about the back pain. They thought I was making it up to try and get out of practice.
When they finally did take me to the doctor, bam, it was scoliosis and too late for a brace. I just had my fourth back surgery three weeks ago where I had to have an entire disc replaced. I am 21.” – Velcosby
“Persistent, raging heartburn. I was young and dumb and uninsured so I put it off. I put it off for nearly 3 months, by which point I was subsisting on plain yogurt and lentils and still having extremely painful bouts of heartburn and vomiting. I had lost a lot of weight and was consistently exhausted and in pain.
Finally went to the doctor – it was a raging case of H. Pylori infection. It was cleared up with antibiotics, but my doctor warned me at the time that I had probably caused irreversible damage to my stomach and digestive system by waiting so long. She was right – within a year, the heartburn was back, along with the nausea and vomiting. I essentially gave myself a chronic disease by ignoring the initial infection.” – whereswalda