What are the early signs of cancer and when to consult oncologist

We all know, cancer is a deadly disease and has the power to ruin mental peace, health, and emotional well-being. Most of the cancers are known to cause at least some type of signs or symptoms.

Signs are something that is perceived by others like your friends or family, while symptoms are mostly perceived by the patients themselves. For instance, fever, vomiting, are signs but tiredness, weakness can come under symptoms of the disease.

Identifying these indicators early on can lead to early diagnosis, better treatment plan, and possibly a higher chance of surviving. But, what are the signs and symptoms that showcase if something’s not quite right? Well, paying attention to the clues that your body gives out and a rock-solid knowledge on the early signs of cancer can save the day for you.

But, before we dive in to understand the different signs and symptoms of cancer, let’s look at the signs and symptoms of cancer and when’s the right time to visit a doctor.

How Does Cancer Cause Signs and Symptoms?

A healthy body is replenished with new cells every single day through division. But, if it starts to take an uncontrollable turn, it can grow into cancer. As the mass of cells divides at a rapid speed, it reaps the healthier cells from their share of nutrition and oxygen. Even the smallest tumors have the power to disrupt the healthy wellbeing of the body and lead to utter chaos in your body. This might lead to loss of energy, tiredness, and a weak immune system. If this trend continues, cancer can spread to other parts of the body which can start showing symptoms.

While some cancers showcase some amount of initial signs, others might not even show signs. However, there are still some telltale signs that you should look out for.

Initial Cancer Signals

Here are a few signs and symptoms that can lead to early diagnosis.

Weight loss

When cancer cells attack healthy cells, weight loss is an expected response from your body. An  American Cancer Society (ACS) study reveals a lot of people lose more than 10 pounds prior to their cancer diagnosis and this can be counted as the very first sign of cancer. However, unexplained weight loss can be the result of other health conditions, like hyperthyroidism. But, in the case of cancer, weight loss can be a sudden response. Few prominent cancers like lung cancer, esophagus cancer, stomach cancer can show weight loss as the first few signs.


Fever is your body’s response to any attack from illness or infection. People with cancer often show fever as a symptom and it’s also considered a sign that the cancer is in its advanced stage. People with blood cancer, such as leukemia or lymphoma, show signs of fever from the early onset of cancer.

Blood loss

Unusual blood loss is another deadly sign of cancer. In the case of colon or rectal cancer, you might have blood in your stools, while blood in the urine can be the symptom for prostate or bladder cancer. It’s vital to take note and report such symptoms immediately to your doctor so that they can get to the bottom of the problem. However, in case of internal bleeding, which is most prevalent in the case of stomach cancer, it gets extremely difficult to detect. So, regular checkups can serve a great opportunity to detect such discreet unusual blood loss.

Pain and tiredness

Pain and tiredness are a few of the most common symptoms. As the cancer cells use up all your cell’s energy, unexplained fatigue or tiredness can serve as another symptom. Well, sometimes adequate sleep can also result in fatigue, but if it doesn’t seem to go away, even after adequate sleep, then it might be the sign of some underlying health problem. For instance, in the case of leukemia, tiredness is the most prominent sign. One can also have back pain due to colon cancer, prostate, or rectum cancer.

Persistent cough

Although we often ignore a cold or the flu, this can be a potential symptom too. But in the case of lung cancer, this cough can persist for a long time. Plus, red flags, like weight loss, fatigue, chest pain, hoarseness in voice, and shortness of breath can all be very well pointing in the direction of lung cancer. As the disease progresses, you may have blood in your cough. So, visit your doctor as early as possible to take care of the disease.

Skin changes

Changes in the skin are often linked to skin cancer. One of the early signs of skin cancer is the change in the color of moles or warts along with their size. Hyperpigmentation, redness in the skin are clear signs of skin cancer. White spots in your mouth can indicate oral cancer while lumps underneath the skin can be metastatic tumors, such as in the case of breast cancer.

Changes in delivery system

Certain cancers can meddle with your digestion. You can also face difficulty swallowing, loss in appetite, or sheer pain after eating. Cancer can also cause symptoms like indigestion, nausea, bloating, and vomiting. However, these symptoms are not just related to cancers of the GI tract but also certain others as well like ovarian cancer.

Night sweats

Well, night sweats are not your regular bad dream sweats. They are much more intense than lightly sweating or just feeling too warm. However, just like other previously mentioned symptoms, night sweats can be due to a number of reasons probably unrelated to cancer.

Some Cancers Cause No Symptoms at All

While many cancers show symptoms, some are far more discreet and can be noticed when they spread to other organs or body parts. For instance, there are no noticeable signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer until it spreads to other organs. And when it has already spread to other organs, it means the cancer is at an advanced stage and very difficult to cure. Although it can be difficult to detect cancers early on, screenings and special tests can help you to fight back in time. Moreover, if you have a family history of cancer, then it’s always advised to go for more aggressive testing rather than waiting for signs or symptoms to show up.

When Should You Go to See Your Oncologist? 

To keep your health in check, it is always a good idea to get checkups or screenings done every six months. Also, if you have a family history of cancer, but still don’t show any symptoms, it’s always the best to discuss with your doctors. But, if you notice these early signs, then don’t hesitate to book an appointment with the oncologist or a doctor to check, if you have anything to worry about. Your symptoms can be most likely caused by something else, however as the old saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’. Your regular physician can help you figure out the reason behind the symptoms. If your regular physician is unable to detect, you would be referred to a specialist to diagnose the reasons behind the symptoms.

The bottom line: The best way to survive cancer is to take charge of your mental well-being and health. Make it a point to not miss out on your annual/ bi-annual checkups so as to keep a tab on your health. Plus, by dealing with the warning signs early on, you can eventually beat cancer and live your life to the fullest.

Read more:What are the various cancer treatment options

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