Signs and symptoms are ways the body tells you that you have an injury, illness, or disease.
A sign, such as a fever or bleeding, that may be seen or measured by another person.
A symptom, such as pain or fatigue, is felt or noticed by the person who has it.
Signs and symptoms of cancer depend on where the cancer is located, how big it is, and how much it affects nearby organs or tissues. If the cancer has spread (metastasized), signs or symptoms may appear in different parts of the body.
How does cancer cause signs and symptoms?
Cancer can grow or begin to press on nearby organs, blood vessels, and nerves. This pressure causes some of the signs and symptoms of cancer.
Cancer may also cause symptoms such as fever, extreme tiredness (fatigue), or weight loss. This may be because cancer cells use up too much of the body’s energy supply. Or the cancer can release substances that change the way the body produces energy. Cancer can also cause your immune system to react in ways that cause these signs and symptoms.
What are some general signs and symptoms of cancer?
Most signs and symptoms are not caused by cancer but can be caused by other things. If you have any signs and symptoms that don’t go away or get worse, you should see a doctor to find out what’s causing them. If cancer is not the cause, a doctor can help find the cause and treat it, if needed.
For example, lymph nodes are part of the body’s immune system and help capture harmful substances in the body. Normal lymph nodes are very small and hard to find. But when an infection, inflammation, or cancer is present, the nodes can become enlarged. Those near the surface of the body can become large enough to be felt with your fingers, and some may be seen as a lump or lump under the skin. One of the reasons for swollen lymph nodes is if cancer is trapped there. Therefore, if you develop unusual swelling or mass, you should see your doctor to find out what is going on.
Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms that may be due to cancer. However, any of these can be caused by other problems as well.
Tiredness or extreme tiredness that is not improved with rest.
Weight loss or gain of 10 pounds or more for no known reason
Eating problems such as not feeling hungry, difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, or nausea and vomiting
Swelling or lumps anywhere in the body
A thickening or lump in the breast or in another part of the body
Pain, especially new or with no known cause, that does not go away or is getting worse
Skin changes such as a lump that bleeds or crusts over, a new mole or change in mole, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a yellowish color to the skin or eyes (jaundice).
Cough or hoarseness that does not go away
Unusual bleeding or bruising without a known cause
A change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea that doesn’t go away or a change in the way your stools look
Bladder changes such as pain when urinating, blood in the urine, or needing to urinate more or less often
fever or night sweats
Vision or hearing problems
Mouth changes such as sores, bleeding, pain, or numbness
The above signs and symptoms are the most common signs and symptoms associated with cancer, but there are many other signs and symptoms not listed here. If you notice any significant changes in the way your body works or the way you feel — especially if they last for a long time or get worse — tell your doctor. If it has nothing to do with the cancer, the doctor can learn more about what’s going on and treat it if needed. If it’s cancer, you’ll give yourself the chance to treat it early, when treatment will be most successful.
Sometimes, it is possible to detect cancer before symptoms appear. The American Cancer Society and other health groups recommend cancer screenings and certain tests for people who don’t have symptoms. This helps detect some types of cancer early. You can find more information about early detection in the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for early detection of cancer.
Keep in mind that even if you’ve had screening tests related to cancer, it’s still important to see a doctor if you develop any new or worsening signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms may mean you have cancer or another disease that needs treatment.