The group of oncological diseases includes dozens of different pathological conditions, which have extremely diverse symptoms. The symptoms of cancer primarily depend on the specific nature of the affected organ, the degree of the severity of the disease, and also on the scale (stage) of the malignant process.
Herzliya Medical Center offers its patients different programs of Chek-Up oncological examination. Advanced equipment and highly qualified medical personnel will ensure that your examination is passed quickly and effectively.
Symptoms of cancer and their causes
The characteristics of cancer tumours include their uncontrolled growth, the tendency to infiltrate into adjacent organs, as well as their spreading (metastasis) within the body. During the initial stages a tumour usually has a microscopic size, but with time it grows and begins to squeeze the neighbouring organs and structures: blood and lymphatic vessels, nerve fibres. Compression is the cause of the chronic pain - one of the characteristic signs of cancer.
If the neoplasm is localized in a vital organ, for example in the brain, cancer symptoms can occur even with a small tumour size and low compression. But the much more often the reverse situation is observed. For example, pancreatic cancer in the initial stages is asymptomatic and is diagnosed late enough - at a stage when a tumour extends beyond the pancreas, creates a mechanical obstruction to the outflow of bile, and jaundice develops in a patient. In the presence of distant metastases outside the primary focus, the symptoms of cancer can vary depending on the organ affected by metastasis: lungs, bones, nervous system, etc.
The symptoms of cancer are divided into specific - associated with the defeat of a certain organ, and nonspecific. Non-specific symptoms include a chronic increase in the temperature of the body, which is not explained by an infectious disease, as well as weight loss for no apparent reason and overall weakness. Weakness or rapid fatigue is primarily a consequence of the increased energy needs of a cancerous tumour. In addition, they can be caused by metabolic disturbances or disorders of normal activity of the immune system against the background of an active malignant process.
Some types of tumours have secretory activity: they release hormones or other biologically active substances into the blood. Often such activity leads to the appearance of secondary diseases. For example, in pancreatic cancer, patients often suffer from an increase in blood coagulability and development of thrombosis in lower limbs.
Clinical significance of symptoms of cancer
Symptoms of cancer - subject to attentive attitude towards them - play an important role in the early diagnosis of a disease. It is well known that the cancer treatment prognosis in Israel is largely determined by the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. Small tumours, confined to the primary focus, not spread to large blood vessels or nerve fibres, are classified as resectable. After surgical removal of this tumour, the probability of persistent remission is usually very high. As an example, melanoma - one of the varieties of skin cancer. The five-year survival rate is 98% in patients with stage I melanoma, but in the late stages, this figure is reduced to 16%. To this date, most people are familiar with the primary manifestations of melanoma that should be immediately consulted with a doctor: the change in the appearance of the skin area, the representation of a new birthmark or ulceration of its surface, etc. Therefore, despite the fact that the incidence of melanoma is still high, there was a steady decline in mortality from this type of cancer over the past decades. In recent years, screening programs, a preventive examination of a large population, were developed in many countries. They are intended for people who do not have any symptoms of cancer. Such programs include activities for early detection of breast cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer, etc. It is necessary to emphasize that even after passing a regular screening, you should consult a doctor if you have any suspicious symptoms that can be regarded as symptoms of cancer.
Common symptoms of cancer
- Decrease in body weight. A weight loss of 5 kg or more, not associated with a change in diet or physical activity, may indicate the presence of a malignant tumour. In particular, weight loss is observed in patients with cancer of the pancreas, stomach, lungs and esophagus.
- Increase in body temperature. A persistent increase in temperature is often observed with metastasis of cancerous tumours, as well as with certain types of cancer that affect the activity of the immune system (leukaemia, lymphomas).
- Weakness. Severe weakness often occurs with leukaemia, but may also be present in other types of cancer. General weakness is sometimes a consequence of anaemia, which is caused by chronic bleeding, for example, in malignant tumours of the colon or stomach.
- Pain. In a number of cases - with testicular cancer or bone cancer - painful sensations appear at the initial stages of the disease. However, for the vast majority of patients, pain occurs in the late stage, when a tumour reaches a large size or metastasizes.
- Appearance of volume neoplasm. The symptoms of cancer almost always imply the appearance of a tumour or densification. The neoplasm can be determined by palpation (by touch) or during internal organs scanning: via computer or magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound examination, radiography.
- Bleeding. With growth, the malignant tumour spreads over the blood vessels and causes bleeding from the internal organs: respiratory tract, genitalia, gastrointestinal tract. Another cause of bleeding with cancer is a decrease in the number of platelets and disorders in blood coagulability, characteristic, for example, for leukaemia.
- The bowel or the bladder disorders. Chronic disorders of intestinal activity - constipation, diarrhoea, the appearance of blood in the faeces - can be signs of the colon cancer. In patients with bladder prostate, dysuric disorders develop: pain during urination, frequent urge to empty the bladder, urine retention.
- Change of the external appearance of the skin. Skin cancer, as well as other oncological diseases, is accompanied by changes in the skin, such as:
- Skin discolouration - jaundice, redness
- Excess hairs
- The appearance of new moles, spots of unusual colour, plaques, etc.
Specific cancer symptoms
Symptoms of lung cancer
- A chronic cough (lasting more than 3 weeks)
- Recurrent respiratory tract infections
- Shortness of breath, hoarse breathing
- Pain of coughing
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulties in swallowing
- Expressive weakness
Symptoms of colon cancer
- Dark or black colour faeces, the appearance of blood in faeces
- Chronic constipation or diarrhoea
- Loss of body weight
- Abdominal or anal pain
- Difficulties with bowel movement
- Discomfort in the abdominal cavity
- Gases, colic, abdominal cramps
- Anemia and related to it symptoms (weakness, dyspnea)
- Development of intestinal obstruction
Symptoms of prostate cancer
The prostate gland, or prostate, is one of the male reproductive system organs. It is closely adjacent to the urethra and bladder. In the early stages, prostate cancer is asymptomatic, its appearance is associated with tumour growth and compression of the urethra and bladder. In particular, in a patient develop:
- Incomplete emptying of the bladder, urinary retention
- Frequent and urgent urge to urinate
- The appearance of blood in the urine (rarely)
Symptoms of bladder cancer
The signs of bladder cancer largely coincide with the symptoms of prostate cancer. At the same time, bladder cancer can be found not only in men but also in women. One of its characteristic manifestations is hematuria - the appearance of blood in the urine.
Symptoms of breast cancer
Breast cancer occurs mainly in women; in men its manifestations are sporadic.
Symptoms of breast cancer:
- Change in the size or the shape of the breast
- The appearance of a tumour or compaction
- The retraction of the nipple
- Rheum from the nipple
- Enlargement of lymph nodes in the axillary region
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
The initial stages of ovarian cancer - the female gonads - can be completely asymptomatic, which significantly complicates the timely diagnosis of the disease.
Clinical signs of ovarian cancer in later stages:
- Loss of appetite
- Bloating, flatulence
- Ascites - accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity
- Pain in the lower abdomen or back
- Disorders in the activity of intestines
- Pain during intercourse
- Vaginal bleeding
It is necessary to emphasize that all of the above-mentioned phenomena do not always represent cancer symptoms and may indicate the presence of other diseases.