Cancer - Symptoms

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What were the symptoms of your cancer?

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What are cancer symptoms and signs?

Symptoms and signs of cancer depend on the type of cancer, where it is located, and/or where the cancer cells have spread. For example, breast cancer may present as a lump in the breast or as nipple discharge while metastatic breast cancer may present with symptoms of pain (if spread to bones), extreme fatigue (lungs), or seizures (brain). A few patients show no signs or symptoms until the cancer is far advanced.

The American Cancer Society describes seven warning signs that a cancer may be present, and which should prompt a person to seek medical attention. The word CAUTION can help you remember these.

  • Change in bowel or bladder habits
  • A sore throat that does not heal
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Thickening or lump in the breast, testicles or elsewhere
  • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
  • Obvious change in the size, color, shape, or thickness of a wart or mole
  • Nagging cough or hoarseness

Other signs or symptoms may also alert you or your doctor to the possibility of your having some form of cancer. These include:

  • Unexplained loss of weight or loss of appetite
  • A new type of pain in the bones or other parts of the body which may be steadily worsening, or come and go, but is unlike previous pains you may have had before
  • Persistent fatigue, nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained low-grade fevers with may be either persistent or come and go
  • Recurring infections which will not clear with usual treatment

Anyone with these signs and symptoms should consult their doctor.

Many cancers will present with some of the above general symptoms but often have one or more symptoms that are more specific for the cancer type. For example, lung cancer may present with common symptoms of pain, but usually the pain is located in the chest. The patient may have unusual bleeding, but the bleeding usually occurs when the patient coughs. Lung cancer patients often become short of breath, and then become very fatigued.

Because there are so many cancer types (see next section) with so many nonspecific and sometimes more specific symptoms, the best way to learn about signs and symptoms of specific cancer types is to spend a few moments researching symptoms of a specific body area in question. Conversely, a specific body area can be searched to discover what signs and symptoms a person should look for in that area that is suspected of having cancer. The following examples are two ways to proceed to get information on symptoms:

  • Use a search engine (Google, Bing) to find links to cancer by listing the symptom followed by the term "cancer." For example, listing "blood in urine and cancer" will bring a person to web sites that list possible organs and body systems where cancer may produce the listed symptoms.
  • Use a search engine as above and list the suspected body area and cancer (for example, bladder and cancer), and the person will see sites that list the signs and symptoms of cancer in that area (blood in urine being one of several symptoms listed).

In addition, if the cancer type is known (diagnosed), then even more specific searches can be done listing the diagnosed cancer type and whatever may be questioned about the cancer (symptoms, tumor grades, treatments, prognosis, and many other items).

Your own research should not replace consulting a health-care provider if you are concerned about cancer.

Return to Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: cancerian, 65-74 Male (Caregiver) Published: August 16

My father was suffering from acidity and gastric problem for quite some time. On going through ultrasound of whole abdomen some kind of cyst/tumors were detected in kidneys, lungs, liver and at GI junction. After two CT scans and FNAC of liver SOL it was detected that it was a squamous cell carcinoma, but after doing endoscopy esophagus and stomach was found clean.

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Comment from: mary, 75 or over Female (Caregiver) Published: May 21

Thank you for the information I've read. My mom is now suffering from skin disorder for more than 2 years. It started to insect bites, and now as big as a palm like a blooming flowers in her chest. I have already brought in the hospital for medication, ointments and other medicine given. We are advised to visit the dermatologist for biopsy, due to financial problems, we failed. Now, she's just taking pain reliever (mefenamic acid) to less the pain. But more often she refuses because she's suffering from loss of hearing. She's now 84 years old. Please help advise what other remedies to cure her, since other symptoms of cancer I've seen to her. Thank you very much.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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