The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 1.5 million new cancer cases in 2015. While this is a high number, medical experts across the board agree that early detection is crucial to successfully fight the disease.

There are some symptoms one should never ignore, and paying attention to these changes in the body is such an important part of detecting serious medical issues like cancer. I know my own body best, so when I saw this list of common cancer symptoms that can help with early detection, I knew I’d be watching out for them.

Dr. Beth Y. Karlan of Cedars-Sinai’s Cancer Institute says that if you have symptoms that are “persistent and progressive, meaning you wake up every morning and feel something and it has you worried — even for two weeks in a row — it really is worth calling your physician and having it checked out.”

Like a lot of people, I incorrectly thought that breast cancer symptoms only affected women and I didn’t have to worry about them. I was also wrong in thinking that symptoms associated with colon cancer only affected men. But I was very surprised to see how many symptoms affected both men and women, just like in the case of a heart attack. I’m so glad I know what to look for now!

Scroll through to see which symptoms should be a red flag for women, men, or for both women and men. While these symptoms don’t always mean cancer is the problem, they are a sign that you should see a doctor right away.

Bloating in Women

Unexplained and chronic bloating is one of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and should be taken seriously.

Dr. Beth Y. Karlan says, “For years it’s been known by the misnomer of the silent killer, and we really need to put that aside. Ovarian cancer clearly has symptoms.”

If bloating occurs in conjunction with feeling full too quickly, pelvic or lower back pain, or change in bowel or bladder habits, particularly if it occurs daily for a couple of weeks, you should definitely visit a doctor right away.

Irregular Bleeding or Discharge in Women

Any abnormal bleeding that occurs after menopause or outside of your normal cycle could be a sign of something serious like endometrial or cervical cancer.

Dr. Carolyn Runowicz says, “Any bleeding, staining, little drops on your underwear, or big clots are abnormal and should be immediately investigated.”

Likewise, any kind of unusual discharge could be a symptom of an infection or cervical cancer and warrants a trip to the doctor.

Pelvic or Abdominal Pain in Women

Pelvic or abdominal pain can be an indication of something serious, such as ovarian cancer.

This pain, when accompanied by bloating, trouble eating, or urinary problems, necessitates a trip to the doctor.

The American Cancer Society writes, “These symptoms are also commonly caused by benign (noncancerous diseases) and cancers of other organs. When they are caused by ovarian cancer, they tend to be persistent and represent a change from normal.”

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