What are the most common signs and symptoms of cancer?

Your symptoms may depend on the type of cancer you have, how far it has progressed, where it is, and how far it has spread through your body.
Cancer can cause almost any type of sign or symptom.

A sign is something others can see, such as fever, vomiting, or rapid breathing. Symptoms are only noticed by the person who has them. For example, weakness, fatigue and pain are symptoms. You may have both signs and symptoms of cancer. Which can indicate that something is wrong with your body. Recognition of these indicators can allow for earlier diagnosis and possibly better outlook.

How does cancer cause signs and symptoms?

When the cancer grows, it can grow on nearby organs, nerves and blood vessels. Which can cause signs and symptoms. Even the smallest tumors can cause symptoms in certain organs, such as the brain. If your cancer spreads, or if it metastasizes, you may notice signs or symptoms in different parts of your body. Another reason you might experience symptoms is that cancer cells consume a lot of your body’s energy. They also cause changes in the functioning of your immune system.

The main signs and symptoms of cancer

Although each case is different, some general signs and symptoms of cancer are identified and identifiable.


Unexplained weight loss can be one of the first signs of cancer. Weight loss is common in people with pancreatic, stomach, esophagus, or lung cancer, but can occur with any type of cancer.


Fevers often occur when cancer has metastasized. Night sweats often accompany fevers. Almost everyone with cancer will have a fever at some point.


Feeling extremely tired can be a symptom of cancer in your body.

a bump

A bump or thickening of the skin can be an early or late sign of cancer. People with cancers of the breast, lymph nodes, soft tissues, and testicles usually have lumps.

Skin changes

Yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin can signal cancer. Also, non-healing wounds should be examined. Also, moles, freckles, or warts that change color, shape, or size can be a sign of skin cancer.


Most of the time, the pain is because the cancer has already spread through your body. But pain can be an early symptom of bone or testicular cancer. Back pain is common in people with colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, or ovarian cancer. People with a brain tumor often complain of a headache that does not go away.

Changes in bowel or bladder function

Constipation, diarrhea and other bowel problems can be a sign of colorectal cancer. People with bladder or prostate cancer may report pain with urination, blood in the urine, or other changes in bladder function.

Cough or hoarseness

A cough that won’t go away or a hoarse voice can be a sign of lung, larynx, or thyroid cancer.


Indigestion or swallowing problems can be a sign of stomach, esophageal or throat cancer.


Unusual bleeding is associated with many different cancers. Coughing up blood can be a sign of lung cancer. Bloody stools can be a sign of colon or rectal cancer. Women with cervical or endometrial cancer may experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. Blood in the urine may mean you have bladder or kidney cancer. Bloody discharge from a woman’s nipple can indicate breast cancer.

Changes in the mouth

White spots inside the mouth or on the tongue can be precancers that can develop into oral cancer. Sores, bleeding, or numbness in the mouth can also be a sign of certain cancers.

Swollen lymph nodes

Sometimes swollen lymph nodes can signal cancer. If your nodes remain swollen for three to four weeks, you should ask your doctor to examine it.

be out of breath

Constantly feeling short of breath can be a sign of certain cancers.


A constant, uncomfortable feeling of fullness that lasts every day for weeks could be a sign of ovarian cancer.


Several cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, can cause anemia (low number of red blood cells). These abnormal levels show up in blood tests. Anemia can cause you to feel tired and weak.

Most of the time, these symptoms are not caused by cancer. A benign tumor or other problem may be the cause. But you shouldn’t ignore symptoms that are persistent, severe, or don’t go away.

Signs of your cancer spreading

Symptoms may be different or more severe if your cancer has metastasized to other parts of your body.

Here are some common symptoms of cancer that has spread:

Bone metastases: Cancer that has spread to the bones can cause joint pain or fractures.

Liver metastases: If your disease has invaded your liver, you may suffer from jaundice and abdominal swelling.

Brain metastasis: When cancer metastasizes to the brain, symptoms may include headaches, slurred speech, blurred vision, or dizziness.

Lung metastasis: Cancer that has spread to the lungs can trigger shortness of breath or a persistent cough.

Can cancer cause weight gain?

While weight loss is a more common symptom of cancer, some people experience weight gain. Studies show that more than half of women with breast cancer gain weight during treatment. Those extra pounds are linked to poorer results.

Being overweight can be a side effect of medications like steroids or hormones. Also, some chemotherapy drugs can cause fluid retention, called edema. It can increase your body weight.

Why does cancer cause back pain?

Most cases of back pain are not caused by cancer, but back pain can be an indicator. Back pain is a symptom of many types of cancers. Including primary bone cancer and those that have metastasized to the breast, colon, testicles or lungs. Typically, tumors put pressure on the spine and affect the nerves around it, causing pain.

Why it’s important to notice the symptoms of cancer

Identifying symptoms can help you and your doctor find your cancer earlier. This is important because the earlier the cancer is detected, the better the prognosis. For example, melanoma can be treated effectively if caught early. The five-year survival rate is about 98% if the cancer has not grown deep into the skin. Although the symptoms are most likely caused by something other than cancer, you should not rule them out. This is especially true if the problem has lasted a long time or has gotten worse.

Some cancers cause no symptoms

Sometimes people with cancer have no signs or symptoms. Others only have problems when the cancer has spread throughout their body. For example, ovarian cancer usually does not cause a noticeable problem until it spreads to other organs. By the time this cancer causes signs or symptoms, it is usually very advanced and difficult to cure. It is possible to detect cancers before you have symptoms. Examinations and screening tests can find certain cancers in your body before they start to affect you.

Ask your doctor if you need to undergo special tests. If you have a family history of a certain cancer or have been exposed to specific risk factors, your doctor may perform more aggressive tests.

When should you go see your doctor for a checkup?

It’s always a good idea to see your doctor if you have any symptoms that concern you. Your symptoms are most likely caused by something else, but it’s important to get checked out just in case. At a minimum, your doctor can help you determine the cause of your problems.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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