At Welling Homeopathy, we are regularly asked about the common symptoms of cancer that should be looked for. Now cancer is a group of diseases that can cause almost any sign or symptom. The signs and symptoms will depend on where the cancer is, how big it is, and how much it affects the organs or tissues. If a cancer has spread (metastasized), signs or symptoms may appear in different parts of the body.
Sometimes cancer starts in places where it will not cause any symptoms until it has grown quite large. One example is cancers in the pancreas. They usually do not cause symptoms until they grow large enough to press on nearby nerves or organs (this causes back or belly pain). Others grow around the bile duct and block the flow of bile. This causes the eyes and skin to look yellow (jaundice). By the time a pancreatic cancer causes these signs or symptoms, it is usually in an advanced stage. This means it has grown and spread beyond the place it started — the pancreas.
Checking for cancer (or for conditions that may lead to cancer) in a person who does not have any symptoms of the disease is called screening. In routine physical exams, the doctor looks for anything unusual and feels for any lumps or growths. Specific screening tests, such as lab tests, x-rays, or other procedures, are used routinely for only a few types of cancer, like those of the breast, cervix, colon and rectum.
Cancer can cause a variety of symptoms:
• Thickening or lump in the breast or any other part of the body
• Changes in bowel or bladder habits
• Obvious change in a wart or mole
• A sore that does not heal
• Nagging cough or hoarseness
• Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
• Unexplained changes in weight
• Unusual bleeding or discharge
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
When cancer is diagnosed, the doctor will want to learn the stage or extent of the disease. Staging is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to which parts of the body. Treatment decisions depend on the results of staging. The doctor may order more laboratory tests and imaging studies or additional biopsies to find out whether the cancer has spread.
Knowing how your body normally looks and feels can help you spot early any changes that could be caused by a cancer. Having any of the above symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but it’s sensible to get them checked out by your family physician.
Important Cancer Fact
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.