Signs and symptoms are your body’s way of letting you know that you have an injury, illness, or disease.
Symptoms such as fever and bleeding can be seen or measured by someone.
Symptoms such as pain and fatigue are felt or noticed by the patient.
Cancer symptoms depend on where the cancer is, how big it is, and how much it affects nearby organs and tissues. If the cancer has spread (metastasized), symptoms may appear in different parts of the body.
How does cancer cause signs and symptoms?
Cancer can grow or push into nearby organs, blood vessels, or nerves. This pressure can cause some of the signs and symptoms of cancer.
Cancer can cause symptoms such as fever, extreme tiredness (fatigue), or weight loss. This may be because cancer cells consume most of the body’s energy. Or the cancer can release substances that change the way the body produces energy. Cancer can also cause an immune system response that causes these symptoms.
What are the common symptoms of cancer?
Most of the symptoms are not caused by the cancer, but may be caused by other things. If you have symptoms that don’t go away or get worse, you should see a doctor to find out what’s causing it. If cancer is not the cause, the doctor can help identify the cause and treat it if necessary.
For example, lymph nodes are part of the body’s immune system and help the body absorb harmful substances. Normal lymph nodes are small and difficult to find. However, nodules can become enlarged during infection, inflammation, or cancer. Those near the surface of the body may become large enough to feel with your fingers, and some may appear as subcutaneous swellings or lumps. One reason lymph nodes can become swollen is when cancer takes hold there. So, if you have unusual swelling or lumps, you should see your doctor to find out what’s going on.
Here are some of the common symptoms that can be caused by cancer. However, any of these can be caused by other problems.
Fatigue or extreme tiredness that does not go away with rest.
Unexplained weight loss or weight gain of 10 pounds or more
Eating problems such as not being hungry, difficulty swallowing, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting
Swelling or lump anywhere on the body
Thickening and lumps in the breast and other parts of the body
Pain, especially new or unexplained pain, that does not go away or gets worse
Skin changes such as bleeding, scaling, new moles, sores that won’t heal, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).
Coughing and hoarseness do not go away
Bleeding or bruising for no apparent reason
Bowel habits such as constipation or diarrhea do not go away, or the appearance of the stool changes.
Bladder changes such as pain when urinating, blood in the urine, or the need to urinate frequently
Fever or night sweats
Vision or hearing problems
Changes in the mouth such as sores, bleeding, pain and numbness
The symptoms listed above are more common than cancer, but there are many other symptoms that are not listed here. Tell your doctor if you notice any major changes in how you feel or function, especially if they last for a long time or get worse. If it has nothing to do with cancer, the doctor can figure out what’s going on and treat it if necessary. If it’s cancer, you give yourself the chance to treat it earlier, when treatment is more successful.
Cancer can sometimes be detected before symptoms appear. The American Cancer Society and other health groups recommend getting cancer screenings and getting certain tests even if you don’t have symptoms. It helps in early detection of some cancers. You can find more information about early detection in the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for early detection of cancer.
Remember, even after getting a cancer screening, it’s important to see your doctor if you develop new or worsening symptoms. The signs and symptoms may be cancer or another disease that needs treatment.