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 located, and how far it has spread throughout your body.
Cancer can cause almost any kind of sign or symptom.

A sign is something others can see, such as fever, vomiting, or rapid breathing. The 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 may indicate that there is something wrong with your body. Recognition of these indicators may allow for earlier diagnosis and possibly a better outlook.

How does cancer cause signs and symptoms?

As 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 may experience symptoms is that cancer cells consume a lot of your body’s energy. They also cause changes in the function 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.

Weight loss

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


Fever often occurs when the cancer has metastasized. Night sweats often accompany fever. 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 breast, lymph node, soft tissue and testicular cancer usually have lumps.

Skin changes

Yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin can signal cancer. Non-healing wounds should also be examined. Moles, freckles or warts that change colour, shape or size can also be signs 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 colon, pancreatic or ovarian cancer. People with a brain tumor often complain of headaches that do not go away.

Changes in bowel or bladder function

Constipation, diarrhea and other bowel problems can be signs of colon cancer. People with bladder or prostate cancer may report pain when urinating, 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.

Bad digestion

Indigestion or swallowing problems can be signs of stomach, esophagus or throat cancer.


Unusual bleeding is associated with many different types of cancer. 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 that you have bladder or kidney cancer. Bloody discharge from a woman’s nipple may indicate breast cancer.

Changes in the mouth

White spots inside the mouth or on the tongue can be pre-cancers 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 nodules remain swollen for three to four weeks, you should ask your doctor to investigate.

be short of breath

Constant feeling of shortness of breath can be a sign of certain cancers.


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


Several cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, can cause anemia (low red blood cell count). These abnormal levels show up in blood tests. Anemia can make you 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 that your cancer is spreading

Symptoms may be different or more intense 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 metastases: 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. These extra pounds are associated with poorer outcomes.

Being overweight can be a side effect of medications such as steroids or hormones. Some chemotherapy drugs can also 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 cancer. 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 is 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 around 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 the 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 to the doctor for a check-up?

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

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language that is accessible to everyone. IN NO CIRCUMSTANCES can the information provided replace the advice of a healthcare professional.

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