Cancer can be difficult to diagnose, as cancer symptoms vary based on several factors. Cancer symptoms depend heavily on the type of cancer and the stage of the condition. Cancer symptoms may also vary depending on the health, current state, and biological processes of the patient. When patients experience any types of cancer symptoms, they should note each symptom to a qualified physician. In many cases, cancer symptoms may go unnoticed or unexamined due to lack of cancer awareness.
Cancer Signs vs. Cancer Symptoms
When attempting to understand and diagnose cancer, it is important to distinguish between cancer signs and cancer symptoms. Both cancer signs and cancer symptoms are indications that cancer is present in the patient’s body. In many cases, both are crucial for timely diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Cancer signs are tangible signals that can be identified by others, such as a doctor or a family member of the patient. Cancer signs may be seen in occurrences such as fever and abnormal growths. In some cases, cancer signs are more present in the later and more dangerous stages of the disease when treatment may be less effective. For this reason, identification of early cancer symptoms is important.
Cancer symptoms are signals that are felt by the patient. Cancer symptoms may not be seen or easily identified by others, and therefore may go unnoticed or un-discussed. In many cases, proper diagnosis and treatment depends heavily on the patient’s ability to pinpoint and discuss cancer symptoms with a medical professional. Otherwise, the treating medical professional may not be able to observe certain indications that do not manifest clear cancer signs.
General Cancer Symptoms and Signs
While cancer symptoms and signs are primarily dependent on the type of cancer present, general cancer symptoms and signs may be present. Patients who experience these cancer symptoms and signs with no apparent cause should speak with their doctor to discuss potential underlying conditions. Patients should also stay alert and aware of the onset of other cancer symptoms and signs so that each abnormal occurrence can be discussed with a medical professional.
Cancer symptoms and signs experienced during several types of cancer may include:
- Headaches and bodily pain. Testicular cancer and bone cancers often cause pain in early stages. However, pain typically indicates that the cancer has metastasized, or spread to other areas of the body.
- Fever. This typically occurs in the later stages of the disease when the cancer has metastasized.
- Unexplained weight loss of 10 or more pounds. This happens most often with stomach, pancreas, lung, or esophagus cancers.
- Fatigue. Earlier stages of cancers like leukemia will often cause fatigue. Fatigue may also occur due to blood loss during later stages of cancers of the stomach or colon.
- Skin changes. Skin changes may include darkening, reddening, itching, excessive hair growth, and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes. Skin changes occur in skin cancers, as well as other types of cancer.
- Underlying lump or thickened skin area. This can indicate a cancerous tumor growing beneath the skin. All lumps and new growths should be examined immediately by a doctor.
Cancer Symptoms and Signs by Type
Cancer can be difficult to identify, as each type of cancer exhibits its own specific set of symptoms and signs. All individuals should stay aware of changes in their body, so that any abnormalities can be discussed with a physician. Once suspicion develops, symptoms can be categorized and further investigated to determine if cancer may be the cause.
Below are general cancer symptoms from common forms of cancer. This list is not exhaustive. Those who suspect they may experience cancer symptoms should speak with a qualified physician immediately.
Bladder Cancer Symptoms
Bladder cancer symptoms may include:
- Hematuria, or blood clots and blood in the urine
- Dysuria, or painful urination
- Frequent urination in small amounts
- Frequent development of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
Patients with colorectal cancer may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:
- Long-term constipation
- Stool size and thickness changes
- Blood in the stool
- Excessive gas
Lung Cancer Symptoms
Lung cancer may be indicated by the following signs and symptoms:
- Persistent cough that may worsen over time
- Coughing up blood or mucous
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Hoarseness of the voice
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
Patients with breast cancer may experience:
- A lump in the breast or underarm
- Tenderness and pain in the breast
- Swelling near the armpit
- Changes in breast texture, size, or temperature
- Unusual bloody, clear, or colored nipple discharge
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