Cancer can manifest in many different signs and symptoms. Some of them, such as fatigue and weight loss, are present in most types of cancer, especially when the disease has progressed. Others are specific to particular cancer types, e.g. bloody nipple discharge in breast cancer.
In this article, we list several common specific and non-specific signs and symptoms of various cancers.
15 signs and symptoms of cancer
Here are fifteen common signs and symptoms often present in cancer:
Anemia (a lack of circulating red blood cells) can be caused by many things, such as iron or vitamin B12 deficiency. But anemia can also be a symptom of various types of cancer, including cancer of the bone marrow.
2. Persistent tiredness
Fatigue is a symptom present in most types of cancer. In some types of the disease, such as leukemia and lymphoma, this symptom usually appears early. In other cases, fatigue appears as cancer progresses. Unexplained tiredness is also a symptom of many benign conditions, but you need to report it to your doctor in any case.
3. Weight loss
Weight loss that isn’t due to exercise and diet changes is always a cause for concern. Any type of cancer affecting the digestive system and other cancers can cause significant weight loss.
Absence or presence of pain depends on the location and size of the tumor (or tumors). As a cancerous tumor grows large, it starts to press on blood vessels, nerves, and organs that are near it, and that can cause pain. In some types of cancer, such as bone or testicular cancer, pain may appear early.
Fever that isn't caused by an infection may be a sign of cancer. The most common types of cancer to cause fever in their early stages are blood cancers, leukemia, and lymphoma.
6. Abnormal bleeding
Blood in stool (or rectal bleeding) may be a symptom of colorectal cancer or other cancers affecting the GI tract. Blood in urine may be a sign of kidney or bladder cancer. Coughing up blood is one of the symptoms of lung cancer. Vaginal bleeding that isn’t period may indicate uterine cancer. Bloody discharge from the nipple can be a symptom of breast cancer.
7. Skin changes
A mole or birthmark which has different shades and colors and uneven edges should be evaluated by a dermatologist, as it may be skin cancer. Other skin changes which may be signs of cancer are the following:
- jaundice (whites of the eyes and skin turning yellow);
- darkening of the skin;
- reddened skin;
- persistent itching;
- sores and ulcers which heal poorly or not at all.
8. Changes in bowel movements
Persistent diarrhea, constipation, and diarrhea alternating with constipation may be signs of colorectal cancer. However, these symptoms are more likely to be caused by benign GI disorders. Feeling of fullness in the bowels even after having just emptied them may indicate colorectal cancer.
9. Persistent cough
Persistent cough, especially coughing up bloody mucus, may be a sign of lung cancer. If you don’t smoke, this symptom is very unlikely to be caused by lung cancer. But if you are a smoker, see your doctor as soon as possible if you have this symptom, especially if you have smoked for a long time.
10. A breast lump
Breast lumps are usually benign fibrocystic changes. But if there’s a new lump in one breast, it should be evaluated by a doctor. Regular mammograms are one of the most common tests to look for cancerous changes in breast tissue, but additional tests, such as MRI or ultrasound, may also be needed.
Causes of bloating usually have to do with diet, such as eating too much fiber. But bloating may also be a symptom of ovarian cancer, especially if it’s accompanied by back pain, weight loss, and fatigue.
12. Changes in urination
In men, frequent urge to pee, leaks, or weak and unsteady stream may be caused by benign prostate enlargement, which is common with age. But these symptoms may also indicate prostate cancer.
13. Swollen lymph nodes
Lymph nodes usually swell when the body is fighting an infection. But blood cancer, lymphoma, and leukemia, may also cause lymph node swelling. If the swelling is persistent, and there’s no infection, it should be evaluated by a doctor.
14. Difficulty swallowing
Some types of cancer, including cancers of the esophagus, throat, thyroid, and stomach, can make it difficult to swallow. But trouble swallowing is more commonly caused by throat infections or irritation of the esophagus caused by acid reflux.
15. Mouth sores
White or red patches and mouth sores may be caused by benign conditions affecting the oral cavity, such as stomatitis. But these symptoms may also indicate oral cancer, especially in people who smoke.
This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.