Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 28 April 2021
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Common Signs and Symptoms of Cancer
It’s essential to be aware of the warning signs of cancer, regardless of your age or health. They aren’t enough to detect the illness on their own. However, they will serve as indicators for you and your doctor to identify and address the condition as quickly as possible. When a tumour is small and hasn’t grown, treatment is more successful.
These signs and symptoms aren’t necessarily indicative of cancer. There are a variety of common disorders that may cause you to feel this way. It’s important to see a doctor so that they can assess your condition and take appropriate steps.
The below are some of the more common cancer signs and symptoms in both men and women:
- Pain. Bone cancer is often painful from the start. Some brain tumours induce persistent headaches that do not improve with treatment. Pain may even be a late symptom of cancer, so if you’re not sure whether it’s developing if it doesn’t go away, see a doctor.
- Unintentional weight loss. Almost half of the people who have cancer lose weight. It’s often one of the signs that they notice first.
- Fatigue. If you’re tired all the time and rest doesn’t help, tell your doctor. Leukemia often wears you out, or you could have blood loss from colon or stomach cancer. Cancer-related weight loss can leave you exhausted, too.
- Fever. If it’s high or lasts more than 3 days, call your doctor. Some blood cancers, like lymphoma, cause a fever for days or even weeks.
- Changes in your skin. Have your doctor look at unusual or new moles, bumps, or marks on your body to be sure skin cancer isn’t lurking. Your skin can also provide clues to other kinds of cancers. If it’s darkened, looks yellow or red, itches, or sprouts more hair, or if you have an unexplained rash, it could be a sign of liver, ovarian, or kidney cancer, or lymphoma.
- Sores that don’t heal. Spots that bleed and won’t go away are also signs of skin cancer. Oral cancer can start as sores in your mouth. If you smoke, chew tobacco, or drink a lot of alcohol, you’re at higher risk.
- Cough or hoarseness that doesn’t go away. A cough is one sign of lung cancer, and hoarseness may mean cancer of your voice box (larynx) or thyroid gland.
- Unusual bleeding. Cancer can make blood show up where it shouldn’t be. Blood in your stool is a symptom of colon or rectal cancer. And tumours along your urinary tract can cause blood in your urine.
- Anaemia. This is when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, which are made in your bone marrow. Cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma can damage your marrow. Tumours that spread there from other places might crowd out regular red blood cells.
Common Cancer Symptoms in Men
The most common cancers in men are prostate, lung, and colorectal.
Symptoms of cancer in men include:
Difficulty urinating: A swollen prostate can make it hard to urinate, or it may make you have to urinate very frequently. Tell your doctor if you have pain when you urinate or if there is blood in your urine.
A lump, pain, or ache in your scrotum. These might be signs of testicular cancer.
Common Cancer Symptoms in Women
The cancers that affect women most are breast, lung, and colorectal cancer. Women can also have cancer of the uterus, endometrium, cervix, vagina, or vulva.
Look out for:
Vaginal bleeding or discharge: Get checked out if it happens between periods or after menopause. Endometrial cancer can make you bleed when you don’t expect it.
Loss of appetite: Ovarian cancer can make you feel full, very bloated, or make it hard to eat. Other cancers can cause indigestion or nausea. Cancer isn’t the only illness that changes your appetite but checks with your doctor if you’ve had trouble eating for 2 weeks or longer.
Abdominal pain and bloating: In most cases, you feel gassy, crampy, and bloated because of something minor. Talk to your doctor if you have these types of symptoms and they don’t go away.
Breast changes: Tell the doctor if:
- Your breasts have a different feel to them.
- You discover lumps.
- You become conscious of sudden changes in size or shape.
- You have discharge from your nipples.
- Your nipples have changed shape, either become inverted or flatter
- The skin surrounding the nipples has spots or other skin changes.
Referenced on 19/4/2021
- American Cancer Society: “Signs and Symptoms of Cancer,” “Signs and Symptoms of Testicular Cancer.”
- Cancer.Net: “Weight Loss.”
- Mayo Clinic: “7 Signs and Symptoms Not To Ignore,” “Colon Cancer,” “Liver Cancer.”
- University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: “10 cancer symptoms men shouldn’t ignore,” “10 cancer symptoms women shouldn’t ignore.”
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Male Reproductive Cancers Fact Sheet,” “Female Reproductive Cancers Fact Sheet.”
- Ovarian Cancer Research Fund: “Ovarian Cancer Signs and Symptoms.”
- American Society of Clinical Oncology: “Anemia.”