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Cancer Symptoms Signs Risks Stages and Treatment

Cancer is serious. This article relates to Symptoms of Bladder cancer, Breast cancer, Kidney cancer, Leukemia, Lung cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Melanoma, Oral cancer, Ovarian cancer, Prostate cancer, Stomach cancer and Uterine cancer. And it refers to Cancer Signs and Symptoms, Cancer Risks and Cancer Facts.

Cancer Symptoms Introduction

Cancer Symptoms: Since prevention is one of the most important cancer-fighting tools, it is important that cancer be detected as early as possible before it spreads.

Telltale Signs of Cancer include: A lump or thickening in the breast or testicles; a change in a wart or mole; a skin sore or a persistent sore throat that doesn’t heal; a change in bowel or bladder habits; a persistent cough or coughing blood; constant indigestion or trouble swallowing; unusual bleeding or vaginal discharge; and chronic fatigue.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see a physician for testing. We also have a web page that lists some of the tests that are available to detect cancer.

The following are symptoms that may occur in specific types of cancers:

Bladder cancer: Blood in the urine, pain or burning upon urination; frequent urination; or cloudy urine

Bone cancer: Pain in the bone or swelling around the affected site; fractures in bones; weakness, fatigue; weight loss; repeated infections; nausea, vomiting, constipation, problems with urination; weakness or numbness in the legs; bumps and bruises that persist

Brain cancer: Dizziness; drowsiness; abnormal eye movements or changes in vision; weakness, loss of feeling in arms or legs or difficulties in walking; fits or convulsions; changes in personality, memory or speech; headaches that tend to be worse in the morning and ease during the day, that may be accompanied by nausea or vomiting

Breast cancer: A lump or thickening of the breast; discharge from the nipple; change in the skin of the breast; a feeling of heat; or enlarged lymph nodes under the arm

Colorectal cancer: Rectal bleeding (red blood in stools or black stools); abdominal cramps; constipation alternating with diarrhea; weight loss; loss of appetite; weakness; pallid complexion

Kidney cancer: Blood in urine; dull ache or pain in the back or side; lump in kidney area, sometimes accompanied by high blood pressure or abnormality in red blood cell count

Leukemia: Weakness, paleness; fever and flu-like symptoms; bruising and prolonged bleeding; enlarged lymph nodes, spleen, liver; pain in bones and joints; frequent infections; weight loss; night sweats

Lung cancer: Wheezing, persistent cough for months; blood-streaked sputum; persistent ache in chest; congestion in lungs; enlarged lymph nodes in the neck

Melanoma: Change in mole or other bump on the skin, including bleeding or change in size, shape, color, or texture

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Painless swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin; persistent fever; feeling of fatigue; unexplained weight loss; itchy skin and rashes; small lumps in skin; bone pain; swelling in the abdomen; liver or spleen enlargement

Oral cancer: A lump in the mouth, ulceration of the lip, tongue or inside of the mouth that does not heal within a couple of weeks; dentures that no longer fit well; oral pain, bleeding, foul breath, loose teeth, and changes in speech

Ovarian cancer: Abdominal swelling; in rare cases, abnormal vaginal bleeding; digestive discomfort

Pancreatic cancer: Upper abdominal pain and unexplained weight loss; pain near the center of the back; intolerance of fatty foods; yellowing of the skin; abdominal masses; enlargement of liver and spleen

Prostate cancer: Urination difficulties due to blockage of the urethra; bladder retains urine, creating frequent feelings of urgency to urinate, especially at night; bladder not emptying completely; burning or painful urination; bloody urine; tenderness over the bladder; and dull ache in the pelvis or back

Stomach cancer: Indigestion or heartburn; discomfort or pain in the abdomen; nausea and vomiting; diarrhea or constipation; bloating after meals; loss of appetite; weakness and fatigue; bleeding – vomiting blood or blood in the stool

Uterine cancer: Abnormal vaginal bleeding, a watery bloody discharge in postmenopausal women; a painful urination; pain during intercourse; pain in pelvic area

Cancer often has no specific symptoms, so it is important that people limit their risk factors and undergo appropriate cancer screening. Most cancer screening is specific to certain age groups and your primary-care doctor will know what screening to perform depending on your age. People with risk factors for cancer (for example, smokers, heavy alcohol use, high sun exposure, genetics) should be acutely aware of potential cancer symptoms and be evaluated by a physician if any develop.

Consequently, individuals need to know which symptoms might point to cancer. People should not ignore a warning symptom that might lead to early diagnosis and possibly to a cure.

Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Cancer gives most people no symptoms or signs that exclusively indicate the disease. Unfortunately, every complaint or symptom of cancer can be explained by a harmless condition as well. If certain symptoms occur, however, a doctor should be seen for further evaluation. Some common symptoms that may occur with cancer are as follows:

Persistent cough or blood-tinged saliva

These symptoms usually represent simple infections such as bronchitis or sinusitis.

They could be symptoms of cancer of the lung, head, and neck. Anyone with a cough that lasts more than a month or with blood in the mucus that is coughed up should see a doctor.

A change in bowel habits

Most changes in bowel habits are related to your diet and fluid intake.

Doctors sometimes see pencil-thin stools with colon cancer.

Occasionally, cancer exhibits continuous diarrhea.

Some people with cancer feel as if they need to have a bowel movement and still feel that way after they have had a bowel movement. If any of these abnormal bowel complaints last more than a few days, they require evaluation.

Blood in the stool

A doctor always should investigate blood in your stool.

Hemorrhoids frequently cause rectal bleeding, but because hemorrhoids are so common, they may exist with cancer. Therefore, even when you have hemorrhoids, you should have a doctor examine your entire intestinal tract when you have blood in your bowel movements.

With some individuals, X-ray studies may be enough to clarify a diagnosis.

Colonoscopy is usually recommended.

Sometimes when the source of bleeding is entirely clear (for example, recurrent ulcers), these studies may not be needed.

Unexplained anemia

Anemia is a condition in which people have fewer than the expected number of red blood cells in their blood. Anemia should be investigated.

There are many kinds of anemia, but blood loss almost always causes iron deficiency anemia. Unless there is an obvious source of ongoing blood loss, this anemia needs to be explained.

Many cancers can cause anemia, but bowel cancers most commonly cause iron deficiency anemia. Evaluation should include endoscopy or X-ray studies of your upper and lower intestinal tracts.

Breast lump or breast discharge

Most breast lumps are noncancerous tumors such as fibroadenomas or cysts. But all breast lumps need to be thoroughly investigated.

A negative mammogram result is not usually sufficient to evaluate a breast lump. Your doctor needs to determine the appropriate X-ray study which might include an MRI or an ultrasound of the breast.

Generally, diagnosis requires a needle aspiration or biopsy (a small tissue sample).

Discharge from a breast is common, but some forms of discharge may be signs of cancer. If discharge is bloody or from only one nipple, further evaluation is recommended.

Women are advised to conduct monthly breast self-examinations.

Lumps in the testicles

Most men (90%) with cancer of the testicle have a painless or uncomfortable lump on a testicle.

Some men have an enlarged testicle.

Other conditions, such as infections and swollen veins, can also cause changes in your testicles, but any lump should be evaluated.

Men are advised to conduct monthly testicular self-examinations.

A change in urination

Urinary symptoms can include frequent urination, small amounts of urine, and slow urine flow.

These symptoms can be caused by urinary infections (usually in women) or, in men, by an enlarged prostate gland.

Most men will suffer from harmless prostate enlargement as they age and will often have these urinary symptoms.

These symptoms may also signal prostate cancer.

Men experiencing urinary symptoms need a bit of investigation, probably including a specific blood test called a PSA and a digital rectal exam.

If cancer is suspected, a biopsy of the prostate may be needed.

Cancer of the bladder and pelvic tumors can also cause irritation of the bladder and urinary frequency.

Blood in the urine

Hematuria or blood in the urine can be caused by urinary infection, kidney stones, or other causes.

For some people, it is a symptom of cancer of the bladder or kidney.

Any episode of blood in the urine should be investigated.


Hoarseness not caused by a respiratory infection or that lasts longer than three to four weeks should be evaluated.

Hoarseness can be caused by simple allergy or by vocal cord polyps, but it could also be the first sign of cancer of the throat.

Persistent lumps or swollen glands

Lumps most frequently represent harmless conditions such as a benign cyst. A doctor should examine any new lump or a lump that won’t go away.

Lumps may represent cancer or a swollen lymph gland related to cancer.

Lymph nodes swell from infection and other causes and may take weeks to shrink again.

A lump or gland that remains swollen for three to four weeks should be evaluated.

Obvious change in a wart or a mole

Multicolored moles that have irregular edges or bleed may be cancerous.

Larger moles are more worrisome and need to be evaluated, especially if they seem to be enlarging.

Removing a mole is usually simple. You should have your doctor evaluate any suspicious mole for removal. The doctor will send it for examination under a microscope for skin cancer.

Indigestion or difficulty swallowing

Most people with chronic heartburn usually do not have serious problems.

People who suffer from chronic or lasting symptoms despite using over-the-counter antacids may need to have an upper GI endoscopy.

A condition called Barrett esophagus, which can lead to cancer of the esophagus, can be treated with medication and then monitored by a doctor.

Difficulty swallowing is a common problem, especially in elderly people, and has many causes.

Swallowing problems need to be investigated, because nutrition is always important.

Difficulty swallowing solids can be seen with cancer of the esophagus.

Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge

Unusual vaginal bleeding or bloody discharge may be an early sign of cancer of the uterus. Women should be evaluated when they have bleeding after intercourse or bleeding between periods.

Bleeding that comes back, that lasts two or more days longer than expected, or that is heavier than usual also merits medical examination.

Postmenopausal bleeding, unless expected on hormone therapy, is also worrisome and should be evaluated.

Usually, the evaluation will include an endometrial biopsy, in which a doctor takes a small tissue sample from inside the uterus for testing.

A PAP smear should be part of a woman’s routine medical care.

Unexpected weight loss, night sweats, or fever

These nonspecific symptoms might be present with several different types of cancer.

Various infections can lead to similar symptoms (for example, tuberculosis).

Continued itching in the anal or genital area

Precancerous or cancerous conditions of the skin of the genital or anal areas can cause persistent itching.

Some cancers cause skin color changes.

Several infections or skin conditions (for example, fungal infections or psoriasis) also can cause these symptoms. If itching does not stop with over-the-counter topical medications, your doctor should inspect the area.

Nonhealing sores

Sores generally heal quickly. If an area fails to heal, you may have cancer and should see a doctor.

Nonhealing sores in your mouth or persistent white or red patches on your gums, tongue, or tonsils are also should raise concerns.

Some nonhealing sores may be due to poor circulation (for example, diabetic foot ulcers).


Headaches have many causes (for example, migraines, aneurysms) but cancer is not a common one.

A severe unrelenting headache that feels different from usual can be a sign of cancer, but aneurysms may present in the same way.

If your headache fails to improve with over-the-counter medications, see a doctor promptly.

Back pain, pelvic pain, bloating, or indigestion

These are common symptoms of daily life, often related to food intake, muscle spasms or strains, but they also can be seen in ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is particularly difficult to treat, because it is frequently diagnosed late in the course of the disease.

The American Cancer Society and other organizations have been trying to make both patients and physicians more aware and consider this diagnosis if the classic symptoms are present.

Cancer Facts

Cancer is the second most common cause of death after heart disease.

A significant percentage of newly diagnosed cancers can be cured.

Cancer Symptoms Signs Risks Stages and Treatment. Cancer is more curable when detected early. Although some cancers develop completely without symptoms, the disease can be particularly devastating if you ignore symptoms because you do not think that these symptoms might represent cancer.

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