Symptoms Of Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

Signs and symptoms are the body’s way of communicating that there is a problem in its internal environment. While signs are those that are noticeable to others, symptoms are what the patient experiences. There are no specific symptoms of cancer as they are shared by a number of diseases. Often, the doctor will prescribe a diagnostic test to identify the disease as cancer. 

The signs and symptoms of cancer depend on the type of cancer and the stage at which it is in. The same type of cancer may display different symptoms at different stages. When a cancer metastasises (spreads to another part of the body), the symptoms start affecting that part of the body. 

Often, symptoms appear when the tumour starts to grow in size, pushing against the adjacent organs. In certain types of cancers, the symptoms do not show up until the tumour has grown considerably. The earlier the cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. Awareness of the symptoms of different types of cancer can help with early detection and timely treatment. 

Sometimes, people tend to ignore the symptoms of cancer because the same symptoms can be attributed to several other, short-term illnesses. For example, a nagging cough may be taken to be a symptom of a viral infection. Symptoms that persist should be given more attention and medical help should be sought to rule out cancer as the cause. 

People who are in the high risk category need to get themselves tested periodically to ensure early detection of cancer. 

Below is a list of the most common symptoms of cancer. Having these symptoms does not mean that you definitely have cancer. These symptoms are common to several diseases. However, it is best to consult a doctor if you have these symptoms. 


In certain cancers like leukemia, fever is an early symptom. In certain other types of cancer, fever develops when the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body. 

Unexplained weight loss

If you have lost more than 5 percent of weight in six months, and are not aware of the reason for it, then it is termed as unexplained weight loss. Weight loss is a symptom of most types of cancer, but it is particularly true for cancers of the pancreas, stomach, lungs and esophagus.


Persistent pain can be a symptom of cancer, particularly when it does not go away after initial treatment for pain relief. For example, a recurring headache can be a symptom of a brain tumour. Similarly, back pain in that cancer has metastasised to the bones. Often, pain is a symptom of an advanced stage of cancer and could suggest that the cancer has spread to another part of the body. 


Feeling tired even after rest can be indicative of certain types of cancer, like stomach, colon cancers or leukemia. Cancer patients deal with fatigue at certain points during the treatment of cancer as well. 

Changes in skin

Skin cancer and certain other types of cancer cause changes in the colour of the skin. These changes could include asymmetric spots on the skin that are darker in colour and grow bigger with time. 

Change in bowel or bladder activity

If diarrhoea or constipation lasts for a long time, it could be a symptom of cancer. Frequent urination or not passing urine often enough, could both be indicative of cancer. Any changes in bowel or bladder activities should be reported to a doctor. 


Sores that do not heal can be indicative of cancer. This is particularly true of skin and oral cancers where sores are found on the skin and in the mouth. Such sores may bleed and last longer than usual. Sores could also be a sign of an infection but either way, it is best to consult a doctor about it. 

Lump in the breast

A common symptom of breast cancer is the formation of lumps in the breast that can be felt on physically examining the breast. Sometimes, breast cancer also shows up as reddened or thickened skin. 

White spots

People who chew tobacco or smoke pipes may find white spots inside the mouth and the tongue. These spots are indicative of leukoplakia, a condition that causes extreme irritation. This condition is likely to develop into cancer if left untreated. 

Nagging cough or changes in voice

A long-term cough and hoarseness in the voice can be symptoms of lung cancer, or cancers of the voice box and throat. 

Blood and discharge

Coughing up blood, blood in stools or urine, or any unusual discharge from the breasts or vagina, maybe indicative of certain types of cancer. 

Trouble with swallowing or digesting food

Cancers that affect the throat, pharynx, esophagus etc will cause discomfort in swallowing and digesting food. 

New moles

Appearance of new moles or changes in the shape of existing moles could be indicative of skin cancer. 

Just as these symptoms do not mean that you definitely have cancer, there are also many other symptoms of cancer that are not listed here. If a symptom persists and there does not seem to be any obvious explanation for it, then it is best to consult a doctor to rule out cancer.