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Cancer symptoms

In the early stages, cancer may not cause noticeable symptoms. When symptoms emerge, they vary depending on the type of cancer in addition to the stage, size and location of the tumor(s). As the disease progresses, symptoms often become more apparent.

Some general symptoms of cancer include:

Many symptoms share characteristics of other, non-cancerous conditions. If you experience persistent symptoms or other changes in your health, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Specific cancer symptoms

The following are symptoms typically associated with certain cancer types:

Digestive/gastrointestinal: Common gastrointestinal cancer symptoms include cramps, bloating, gas pain, changes in bowel/bladder habits, constipation, diarrhea, bloody stools, rectal bleeding, anemia and/or jaundice.

Gynecologic: Common gynecologic cancer symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding (after menopause, between periods, following sexual intercourse), pain during intercourse, pelvic/back pain, pain on urination, and/or watery, white or pinkish vaginal discharge.

Head and neck: Common symptoms of head and neck cancers include persistent pain, difficulty swallowing, voice changes, mouth sores, dry mouth, changes in appearance, and/or taste changes.

Hematologic: Common hematologic cancer symptoms include flu-like symptoms, fever, chills, joint/bone pain, anemia, night sweats, lymph node swelling, itching, persistent cough, shortness of breath, abdominal discomfort, headaches, easy bruising or bleeding, and/or frequent infections.

Skin: Common skin cancer symptoms include a change in a mole's size, shape and color in the form of asymmetry, border or color irregularities or diameter (larger than 1/4 inch), itchiness, pain and/or oozing around the affected area.

Lung: Common symptoms of lung cancer include a persistent cough, pain in the chest area, shortness of breath, hoarseness, wheezing, coughing up blood, blood in phlegm or mucus, neck or facial swelling, and/or headaches.

Diagnosing cancer

It’s important to consult with a medical professional if you are experiencing symptoms of cancer. A doctor will conduct a medical evaluation, including diagnostic teststo first confirm the presence of disease and then, if relevant, to identify the correct tumor type, location, extent and stage. An accurate cancer diagnosis helps doctors determine an appropriate treatment approach.