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Common Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

Cancer can cause a variety of symptoms. Possible signs and symptoms of cancer include:

  • A thickening or lump in the breast or any other part of the body
  • An obvious change in a wart or mole
  • A sore that does not heal
  • A nagging cough or hoarseness
  • Changes in bowels or bladder habits
  • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
  • Unexplained changes in weight
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge

When these or other symptoms occur, they are not always caused by cancer. They can also be caused by infections, benign tumors or other problems. It is important to see a doctor about any of these symptoms or about other physical changes. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis. A person with these or other symptoms should not wait to feel pain; early cancer does not usually cause pain.

If symptoms occur, a doctor may order various tests and may recommend a biopsy. A biopsy is usually the most reliable way to know whether a medical problem is cancer. During a biopsy, the doctor removes a sample of tissue from the abnormal area. A pathologist studies the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells.