Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

Updated at: Jun 24, 2016
Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of cancer can vary depending on the location, spread and size of tumour associated with the cancer.


Meenakshi Chaudhary
CancerWritten by: Meenakshi ChaudharyPublished at: Aug 25, 2014

The signs and symptoms of cancer depend upon various factors like where the cancer is located, the extent of spread, and how big the tumour is. In case a cancer has spread, the signs and symptoms can be noticed in different parts of the body. Growth in cancer begins to cause pressure on the nearby organs, blood vessels and nerves. Some cancers can be felt or seen through the skin like breast cancer may be felt as a lump and skin cancer may appear as a change in a wart or mole on the skin or a new growth. But many cancers do not have obvious signs and symptoms.

signs of cancer

Some of the common signs and symptoms of cancer include:

Unexplained Weight Loss:

Many cancers can cause weight loss at some point. Unexplained weight loss means weight loss due to no known reason. An unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more can be the first indicator of cancer. Unexplained weight loss often occurs in cancers of the pancreas, stomach, oesophagus, or lung.



Fever is one of the most common and non-specific signs of cancer. It is more common when the cancer has spread from where it started. Almost all cancer patients develop fever at some time or other. Fever may be an early sign of cancer in leukaemia or lymphoma.



Many cancer patients experience fatigue or extreme tiredness that does not improve with rest and increases with the growth of the cancer. Fatigue can be an early sign in some cancers like leukaemia or lymphomas.


Pain can also be seen as the early or late symptom in cancer.  Some cancers like that of bone or testis cause pain early in the disease, whereas in other cancers pain may occur after the tumour has already spread from where it started which is known as the metastasised. Pain may occur related to the site of tumour such as a headache that does not go away or improves with treatment can occur in brain tumour, or back pain may occur due to cancer of the colon, rectum, or ovary or distant from the site of primary tumour due to metastasis.

Skin changes:

Besides skin cancers, other cancers can also cause signs or symptoms in the skin such as yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice) may occur in tumour of the pancreas, or liver and excessive hair growth may occur in lung cancer.

In addition to these general signs and symptoms, there are other common symptoms and signs which indicate presence of cancer.  Change in bowel habits (constipation, diarrhoea, or a change in the size of the stool may be due to colon cancer), bladder function (pain when passing urine, and blood in the urine may be due to bladder cancer), sores that do not heal (may occur due to skin cancer); persistent cough (may be due to lung cancer).

These are some of the common signs and symptoms of cancer, there are many others which are not mentioned here. If you notice any symptoms and/or signs suggestive of cancer consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Image Courtesy: Getty

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