11 Potential Cancer Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Concerned man

May 03, 2022

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Lori Leslie, M.D.
Joseph Landolfi, D.O.
Roshani Patel, M.D.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, so it’s crucial to recognize the possible signs of the disease. “Screening is one of the most effective ways to prevent cancer or to catch it as early as possible,” says Lori Leslie, M.D., hematologist and oncologist at Hackensack University Medical Center. “While the list of possible cancer symptoms is varied, there are a few common early warning signs that many people diagnosed with cancer experience.” 

Don’t ignore these symptoms; if you experience them, make an appointment with your doctor to investigate them further:

  1. Skin changes. Be on the lookout for changes on your skin, including a new growth or a change in an existing growth or mole. 
  2. Breast lumps. Women at average risk of breast cancer should begin screening at age 40. “In addition, women should keep an eye out for hard lumps near the armpit, bulges or dimples in the skin, swelling, pain, redness or bloody nipple discharge,” says Roshani Patel, M.D., breast surgeon at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
  3. Unusual bleeding or bruising. If you notice blood in your stool or urine, or easy bruising, this can be cause for concern. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
  4. Mouth changes. Be wary of pain, sores, numbness and bleeding in your mouth.
  5. Difficulty swallowing. If you have a sore throat that won’t heal, in combination with other symptoms like an earache, talk to your doctor.
  6. Unexplained weight changes. “Cancer symptoms may change your eating habits or hinder your ability to eat at all,” says Joseph Landolfi, M.D., neuro-oncologist at JFK University Medical Center. “A weight loss or gain of 10 or more pounds without explanation should be alarming.”
  7. Extreme fatigue. Constant extreme fatigue and exhaustion that is not relieved by getting rest should give cause for concern.
  8. Change in bladder or bowel movements. Changes in bowel habits, including more frequent, loose stools and abdominal pain can be symptoms of bowel cancer.  
  9. Fever or night sweats. If you have a fever that persists for more than three days, or you experience excessive night sweats, get checked out. Some blood cancers, such as lymphoma, can cause someone to experience these symptoms.
  10. Abnormal uterine bleeding. Especially in postmenopausal women, abnormal bleeding can be an indicator of endometrial cancer.
  11. Respiratory issues. A persistent cough that does not resolve with cold medications or shortness of breath not related to a heart issue or infection should be checked out by a doctor. 

Next Steps & Resources:


The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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