Cancer is a disease in which mutated cells multiply rapidly. The mutated cells typically originate in one part of the body before invading other parts of the body as they multiply. You can learn more about cancer in our blog “What is Cancer?”.
The most well-known sign of cancer is the “lump” that’s formed by a cancerous tumor, but there are a large variety of other cancer symptoms that range from mild to severe. In some cases, cancer can develop for months or years without causing any symptoms at all.
What are Signs and Symptoms of Cancer?
There are over 200 different types of cancer, and cancer symptoms can vary depending on the type. Generally, the most common cancer symptoms include:
- Night Sweats
- Unexplained Pain
- Unusual Bleeding or Bruising
- Unusual Weight Loss
- Lumps or Unusual Skin Changes
- Unexplained Bladder or Bowel Changes
- Vision or Hearing Problems
- Pelvic Pain or Abnormal Periods
- Chronic Coughing
Many of these symptoms are not necessarily warning signs of cancer, and may be caused by any number of health problems. Regardless, these symptoms may still indicate a serious health problem so you shouldn’t hesitate to have them checked out by a doctor.
Fatigue is often caused by a lack of consistent, quality sleep, lack of exercise, and poor diet. You should see a doctor if you’re feeling persistent fatigue that has no clear cause—for instance, if you’re sleeping 8 hours every night but still feel tired during the day. Some types of cancers, like leukemia and lymphoma, can cause a significant drain on your energy level.
Sweating at night may be caused by a fever or side effects of medications (assuming that you’re sleeping in a cool room with blankets that aren’t too hot). It’s also common for women experiencing menopause to have unusual night sweats. You should see a doctor if your night sweats are severe (you and your sheets are drenched) and an unexplained fever that doesn’t coincide with a cold or sickness.
On a similar note, you should see a doctor if you’re having frequent fevers or infections, even when you’re getting plenty of sleep or eating healthy.
We tend to experience more aches and pains as we age. However, if you’re feeling persistent aching or pain anywhere in your body then you should have the area evaluated by a doctor. In many cases, the pain is caused by something else, like poor posture or the wearing down of muscles and joints. However, some chronic pain might be a sign of cancer.
Unusual Bleeding or Bruising
See a doctor if you’re experiencing unusual bleeding or bruising anywhere in your body. In most cases, people only bleed after an injury or during periods. Unusual bleeding involves:
- Blood that’s coughed up or vomited
- Blood found in your urine or poop
- Vaginal bleeding that occurs between periods
- Vaginal bleeding that occurs after sex
Unexplained bleeding may indicate certain types of cancer, or other serious health problems. You should also see a doctor if you have sores that won’t heal.
Unusual Weight Loss
For most people, weight tends to fluctuate in mild loss and gains. If you’re losing weight quickly (>5% of body weight in several months) and unexpectedly (without dieting, exercising, or loss of appetite), then the unexplained weight loss might indicate cancer.
Lumps or Unusual Skin Changes
You should see a doctor if you have a persistent hard lump or swelling in any part of your body. Swelling often occurs naturally after injury, and lymph nodes typically become swollen when you’re sick. However, unexplained lumps found in strange parts of your body could also possibly be tumors.
You should also see a doctor if you notice an unusual mole or birthmark that’s appeared rather suddenly, as these moles can turn into melanoma. Typically, cancerous skin blemishes are those that:
- A – Asymmetry: Are asymmetrical
- B – Border: Have a blurred or irregular border/edge
- C – Color: Have inconsistent coloring (often have a black and brown shades)
- D – Diameter: Are larger than a pencil eraser in diameter
- E – Evolving: Appears to be evolving in any of traits mentioned above or other characteristics
Unexplained Bladder or Bowel Changes
See a doctor if you’re having unusual changes to your bladder or bowel habits. These changes might include:
- Pain when you’re passing urine or poop
- Blood in your urine or poop
- Using the bathroom with unusual frequency—more or less
- Change in the consistency of poop such as diarrhea or
These symptoms might indicate cancer in your urinary or digestive systems.
Vision or Hearing Problems
Unexplained changes in your vision or hearing can be a symptom of certain types of head and neck or brain cancers. These problems include:
- Unexplained hearing loss
- Unexplained loss of vision or blurry vision
- Water, itchy, or sensitive eyes
In most cases, these are not cancer symptoms and are caused by any number of health issues: TMJ problems, allergies, sinusitis, etc. However, these symptoms can seriously affect your quality of life so you should have a doctor check them out as soon as possible.
Pelvic Pain or Abnormal Periods
It’s normal for women to occasionally have irregular periods or cramps. However, persistent changes to your period cycle may be a symptom of cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer. It can also be a symptom of appendix cancer.
Chronic coughing is often a sign of lung cancer, or another serious respiratory illness.
What Should You Do if You Notice Symptoms of Cancer?
See a doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms of cancer. In many cases, these symptoms do not necessarily indicate cancer, but another type of health issue that can be equally serious. You can learn more about cancer symptoms at Cancer.gov.
There are many treatments available that can help you fight cancer, including mental health services. While there’s no absolute cure, there are many clinical trials being done to test new types of treatment methods and medications in the hopes a cure will someday be discovered. You can help us fund these clinical trials by making a donation today.