Potential Warning Signs and Symptoms of Cancer


What is cancer?

Cancer is a term used to describe a group of related diseases wherein abnormal cells begin to continually divide and spread into surrounding tissues. Cancer can develop anywhere in the body. Normally, cells in the body grow and divide as needed; for example, when a cell gets old, becomes damaged, or dies, a new cell takes its place. Cancer disturbs this process: cells become more and more abnormal, damaged cells don’t die, and uncontrolled abnormal cell growth occurs. More than 100 types of cancer have been identified.

Potential warning signs and symptoms

Recognizing early warning signs and symptoms of cancer is important as the sooner treatment begins, the better the outlook of survival. Although many symptoms of cancer are also symptoms of other health conditions, it’s important to consult a health care professional about any persistent or bothersome health concerns. Potential warning signs and symptoms of cancer include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Severe, persistent fatigue or weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain of 10 pounds or more
  • Issues with eating, such as no appetite, abdominal pain, trouble swallowing, nausea or vomiting
  • Persistent cough or hoarseness
  • Unexplained fevers or night sweats
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lump, swelling, or thickening of skin in any location of the body
  • Pain that persists or worsens, especially new onset pain or pain with no known cause
  • Skin changes (e.g., bleeding or scaly lump, a new mole or change in an existing mole, a sore that does not heal, or yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Unexpected bruising or bleeding
  • Changes in urination (e.g., blood in the urine; painful urination; persistent, urgent need to urinate; trouble urinating)
  • Sores, bleeding, numbness or pain in the mouth
  • Change in bowel habits (e.g., persistent constipation or diarrhea)
  • Headaches
  • Vision or hearing changes
  • Seizures
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