How to have cancer?

Symptoms of Cancer

If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, it is important to see a doctor.

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Cancer can cause many symptoms, but these symptoms are most often caused by illness, injury, benign tumors, or other problems. If you have symptoms that do not get better after a few weeks, see your doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Often, cancer does not cause pain, so do not wait to feel pain before seeing a doctor.
To learn more about symptoms for a specific cancer, see the list of PDQ® cancer treatment summaries for adult and childhood cancers. Each summary includes detailed information about symptoms caused by a specific cancer.
Some of the symptoms that cancer may cause include:
Breast changes

  • Lump or firm feeling in your breast or under your arm
  • Nipple changes or discharge
  • Skin that is itchy, red, scaly, dimpled, or puckered

Bladder changes

  • Trouble urinating
  • Pain when urinating
  • Blood in the urine

Bleeding or bruising, for no known reason

Bowel changes

  • Blood in the stools
  • Changes in bowel habits

Cough or hoarseness that does not go away

Eating problems

  • Pain after eating (heartburn or indigestion that doesn’t go away)
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Belly pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Appetite changes

Fatigue that is severe and lasts

Fever or night sweats for no known reason

Mouth changes

  • A white or red patch on the tongue or in your mouth
  • Bleeding, pain, or numbness in the lip or mouth

Neurological problems

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Vision changes
  • Hearing changes
  • Drooping of the face

Skin changes

  • A flesh-colored lump that bleeds or turns scaly
  • A new mole or a change in an existing mole
  • A sore that does not heal
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)

Swelling or lumps anywhere such as in the neck, underarm, stomach, and groin

Weight gain or weight loss for no known reason

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

Women with vaginal cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, women with vaginal cancer do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition that is not cancer.

Precancerous conditions, such as VaIN (see Introduction), and early-stage vaginal cancer do not often cause symptoms. Cancer in later stages can cause symptoms. Many cases of VaIN and early vaginal cancer can be found through regular gynecologic examinations or Pap tests (see Diagnosis).

The most common symptom of vaginal cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. Vaginal bleeding during or after menopause may be the sign of a problem and should be discussed with your doctor. Other symptoms of vaginal cancer include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge

  • Difficulty or pain when urinating

  • Pain during sexual intercourse

  • Pain in the pelvic area (the lower part of the abdomen between the hip bones)

  • Pain in the back or legs

  • Swelling in the legs

  • Abnormal bowel function

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may be called palliative care or supportive care. It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

10 cancer symptoms men shouldn’t ignore

Nagging back pain. Indigestion. Frequent urination. You may assume these are minor health issues that don’t need a doctor visit. But think again.

Cancer symptoms are often vague. In fact, prostate cancer–the most common cancer in men–has some of the least obvious symptoms.

“Men shouldn’t ignore their health,” says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. “It’s vital to stay informed, pay attention to changes in your body and report unusual symptoms to your doctor right away.”

Knowing what symptoms to look for can help your doctor find cancer early when it’s most treatable.

Bevers shares some of the most common cancer symptoms in men.

  1. Abnormal lump. Have you recently felt a mass or lump right below your skin? This may be a sign of cancer. Lumps normally show up in the breast, testicles, lymph nodes and soft tissues, like tendons and ligaments. Here’s what to do: Report it to your doctor immediately, especially if you just found it, or it has grown in size.
  2. Changes in your testicles. Have you noticed changes in the size of your testicles, like one or both have gotten bigger? Maybe you’ve found a lump, or your testicles feel swollen or extra heavy. Any of these signs should send you straight to your doctor. Testicular cancer is most common in young and middle-aged men.
  3. Changes in your restroom habits. Suddenly need to use the restroom all the time? Or have pain when you go? This may be a sign of bladder or prostate cancer. Other signs to look out for are blood in your urine or stool. Changes in your bowel habits, like constipation or diarrhea that won’t go away, matter too.
  4. Changes in your skin. If you work long hours outside or have a history of blistering sun burns, check your skin more closely. What you think are signs of hard work might actually be skin cancer. Look for unusual bleeding, scaling or sores that do not heal. Other signs include warts as well as moles and freckles that change in color, size or shape. Bottom line: If you’ve got a strange spot on your skin, call your dermatologist.
  5. Indigestion or trouble swallowing. A prolonged painful burning sensation in your throat or chest shouldn’t be ignored – even if you suspect it’s from eating spicy food. Don’t think that regular indigestion or trouble swallowing is a normal part of aging either. It can be a sign of esophageal, stomach or throat cancer.
  6. Persistent cough or hoarseness. Do you have a nagging cough? If it lasts more than three weeks, it’s a sign that something’s wrong. And whether you smoke or not, a cough that doesn’t go away can be a sign of lung cancer. Persistent hoarseness, wheezing, shortness of breath or coughing up blood are also signs to call your doctor right away.
  7. Changes in your mouth. If you smoke, chew, dip or spit tobacco, you need to pay close attention to changes inside your mouth. White patches inside your mouth or white patches on your tongue may be pre-cancers. Left untreated, these areas can turn into oral cancer. Sores, unexplained bleeding, numbness or tenderness in the area around your mouth – like your tongue, lips and cheeks – should tell you that it’s time for a check-up.
  8. Unexplained weight loss. Are you dropping pounds without changing your diet or exercise habits? Call your doctor – even if you think they’re pounds you need to lose. Losing ten or more pounds for no known reason can be a sign of pancreatic, stomach, esophageal or lung cancer.
  9. Constant fatigue. Are you too tired to play with your kids? Or hang out with the guys after work? Are you constantly tired no matter how much rest you get? Don’t brush it off. Constant fatigue can be a sign of leukemia as well as some colon and stomach cancers.
  10. Persistent pain. Nagging back pain, a headache that won’t go away, abdominal or stomach pains – your doctor needs to know. “No pain, no gain” doesn’t apply to cancer. And, persistent pain, no matter the location, can be the first sign that something’s wrong.

Remember, having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer. But if they’re persistent, you need to go in for a checkup.

“See your doctor and get your cancer risk assessed,” Bevers says. This assessment can help you understand whether or not you’re more likely to get cancer. That way you can make better choices to keep your body healthy and cancer-free.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson’s Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.

Women’s bodies are always changing. Sometimes changes that seem normal can be signs of cancer, though.

The key is to pay attention to your body so you can notice when something’s different, says Robyn Andersen, PhD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “New symptoms indicate something has changed in your body, and you want to know what that means.”

So, what should you watch for?

1. Breast changes

Most breast lumps aren’t cancer, but your doctor should always check them. Let her know about these changes, too:

  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • Nipples that turn inward
  • Nipple discharge
  • Redness or scaling of your nipple or breast skin

To look for the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your medical history. You may also have tests like a mammogram or a biopsy, when doctors remove a tiny piece of tissue for testing.

2. Bloating

“Women are natural bloaters,” says Marleen Meyers, MD, an oncologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. “It’s OK to wait a week or two to see if it goes away.”

If your symptoms don’t get better with time, or if they happen with weight loss or bleeding, see a doctor. Constant bloating could be a sign of cancer, including breast, colon, gastrointestinal, ovarian, pancreatic, or uterine. Depending on other symptoms, you will undergo tests which could include a pelvic exam as well as blood tests, a mammogram, a colonoscopy, a CT scan or an ultrasound, to look for the cause of the problem.

3. Between-Period Bleeding

If you’re still getting periods, tell your doctor if you’re spotting between them. Bleeding that’s not a part of your usual monthly cycle can have many causes, but your doctor will want to rule out endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of your uterus).

Bleeding after menopause is never normal and should be checked right away.

4: Skin Changes

A change in the size, shape, or color of a mole or other spot, as well as development of new spots, are common signs of skin cancer. See your doctor for a thorough exam and perhaps a biopsy. This is one time you don’t want to wait, Meyers says.

Cancer Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

The best way to find some cancers early, when they’re small, have not spread, and are easier to treat, is through routine screenings – tests to check for cancer before there are any symptoms of the disease. With cervical and colon cancers, these tests can even prevent cancer from developing in the first place. But for cancer types that have no screenings, and for people who are too young to get routine screenings, symptoms are usually the first sign of cancer.

Knowing what symptoms to look for is complicated because cancer is not just one disease, but 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.

A cancer may cause general symptoms like fever, extreme tiredness (fatigue), or weight loss. This may be because cancer cells use up much of the body’s energy supply, or they may release substances that change the way the body makes energy from food. Cancer can also cause the immune system to react in ways that produce these signs and symptoms. General symptoms can also have other causes, and are in fact more likely to be caused by something that isn’t cancer. But it’s important to have them checked out, just in case. If cancer is not the cause, a doctor can help figure out what the cause is and treat it, if needed.

Research has found that many people ignore symptoms or underestimate how serious they are. In a study conducted in London, researchers found that less than 60% of people who’d experienced symptoms that can be caused by cancer in the previous 3 months had gone to the doctor about them. And hardly any of them considered cancer as a possible cause. The symptoms included unexplained weight loss and change in the appearance of a mole, both of which should be checked out by a doctor right away.

The researchers say their study makes clear that opportunities for cancer to be diagnosed earlier are being missed. And while some symptoms, such as tiredness or coughing, are more likely caused by something other than cancer, no symptom should be ignored or overlooked, especially if it has lasted a long time or is getting worse.

Reasons to see a doctor

  • Weight loss without trying: Losing 10 pounds or more that isn’t on purpose may be a sign of cancer. This happens most often with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus (tube connecting the mouth to the stomach), or lung.
  • Fever: Sometimes cancer can affect the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infection that causes fever. It can also be an early sign of leukemia or lymphoma.
  • Fatigue: Extreme tiredness that doesn’t get better with rest may be a symptom of several different cancer types including leukemia, colon cancer, or stomach cancer.
  • Pain: Bone cancer or testicular cancer may cause pain. A headache that does not go away or get better with treatment may be a symptom of a brain tumor. Back pain can be a symptom of cancer of the colon or ovary.
  • Skin Changes: Any wart, mole, or freckle that changes color, size, or shape, or that loses its sharp border should be checked for melanoma or other types of skin cancer. Other skin changes that can be symptoms of cancer include darker looking skin, yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice), reddened skin, itching, or excessive hair growth.
  • Change in bowel or bladder habits: Long-term constipation, diarrhea, or a change in size of the stool may be a sign of colon or rectal cancer. Pain when passing urine, blood in the urine, or a change such as needing to go more or less often than usual could be related to bladder or prostate cancer.
  • Sores that do not heal: Skin cancers may bleed and look like sores that don’t heal. A long-lasting sore in the mouth could be an oral cancer, especially in people who smoke, chew tobacco, or often drink alcohol. Sores on the genital area may either be signs of infection or an early cancer.
  • White spots in the mouth: White patches inside the mouth and white spots on the tongue may be leukoplakia. Leukoplakia is a pre-cancerous area that’s caused by frequent irritation. It’s often caused by smoking or other tobacco use and can become mouth cancer if not treated.
  • Unusual bleeding: Coughing up blood may be a sign of lung cancer. Blood in the stool (which can look like very dark or black stool) could be a sign of colon cancer. Abnormal vaginal bleeding may be a sign of cervical or endometrial cancer. Blood in the urine may be a sign of bladder or kidney cancer. A bloody discharge from the nipple may be a sign of breast cancer.
  • Lump: Many cancers can be felt through the skin. These cancers occur mostly in the breast, testicle, lymph nodes (glands), and the soft tissues of the body. Some breast cancers show up as red or thickened skin rather than a lump.
  • Indigestion or trouble swallowing: Problems that don’t go away may be signs of cancer of the esophagus, stomach, or throat.
  • Nagging cough or hoarseness: A cough that does not go away may be a sign of lung cancer. Hoarseness can be a sign of cancer of the voice box (larynx) or thyroid gland.

Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean you have cancer, or that you’re even likely to have cancer. But if you have one, or if you notice any other big changes in the way your body works or the way you feel, let a doctor know. This is especially true if a symptom lasts for a long time or gets worse. Even if it has nothing to do with cancer, the doctor can find out more about what’s going on and, if needed, treat it.

You may also call American Cancer Society any time, night or day, at 1-800-227-2345 with questions.

No two cancer diagnoses are alike. You may learn of your diagnosis after a routine screening or exam, after months or years of coping with undiagnosed symptoms, or even after just feeling like something is off. We asked our Facebook followers to share the first signs or symptoms they experienced before being receiving their cancer diagnosis. Check out a few of their responses below and view them all here.

Please keep in mind that these are individual stories and may not reflect typical symptoms, recommendations or treatment paths.

  • Pressure in my abdomen. Very bad cramps, bleeding and pain for approximately 3 weeks. Thought it was perimenopause. Finally went to a doctor. Transvaginal ultrasound found first stage ovarian cancer. That doctor who sent me for the ultrasound saved my life. –Joanne
  • A very mild cough. Thought it was allergies or a cold, but xray showed a lung lesion. Never smoked! Immediately went to Roswell and am undergoing treatment. –Felecia
  • Lump found in breast. Aggressive form of breast cancer at age 35. Being in tune to my body saved my life. Self-breast exams are extremely important. –Amy
  • A good friend whom I reconnected with looked at a mole on my knee and said, “that mole wasn’t there 2 years ago.” I realized how much it had grown and changed. Not a few days later did it start bleeding when I dried it after showering. I got it checked out that week. –Alicia
  • I had a sore throat and was tired, but chalked that up to a normal cold until my tonsils were huge and the veins were bulging out of them. I thought for sure I had measels or something but it was AML (at 22!). In retrospect I had so many more symptoms I didn’t put together—large bruises, bleeding gums, irregular periods, all of which I individually explained away as being an overworked grad student. I listen to my body much more carefully now almost 8 years after transplant. –AnnaLynn
  • I had uncontrollable nose bleeds! It still took several different doctor and hospital visits to be diagnosed as having multiple myeloma. –Ronald
  • I’ve been diagnosed with stage 2 thyroid cancer. I really didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary and this is exactly why I encourage getting routine check-ups. I’ve avoided them for years. –Montaha
  • Not me but my baby … one morning he started crying an odd cry I’ve never heard before from him. I called 911 because of this cry. By the time they arrived (it was quite quick) he became extremely pale and limp. Stage 3 clear cell sarcoma of the kidney at just 4.5 months old. (I’ll add … our little warrior is currently 18 months old and in remission.) –Danielle

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Make an appointment by calling 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355).

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  • A nagging feeling that the cough just wasn’t right led me to a lung cancer screening, which confirmed lung cancer. It wasn’t anything big or special, but when RPCCC offered the screening I thought, “What the heck, might as well check it out.” The offered screenings are important as that is how a friend found he had cancer, too. –Lauri-Anne
  • My husband did not have any symptoms. One day he was scratching his beard on his neck (just behind left earlobe) and felt a lump. Very rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Stage 1 but had to be treated as stage 4. He is in remission. –Brenda
  • At 34 years old, my right breast was larger than my left. I thought it was just due to uneven breastfeeding by my 10-month-old. It turned out to be stage IIB invasive ductal cancer. After double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, I’m now cancer free. –Emily
  • In the middle of training/workouts, I seemed to lose all my energy. Started getting pains in my lower back that were not associated with any muscle strains. Just overall started feeling completely different. Renal cell carcinoma/kidney cancer. It will be 5 years in May, been all clear and feeling great!! Thanks to my doctors!! –Robb
  • A swollen lymph node right above my left clavicle. I had an itch, scratched it, then realized that spot shouldn’t be swollen or warm to the touch. After talking to my sister (an RN) we had an appointment at Roswell before the Nurse Practitioner would confirm Hodgkin lymphoma. I am 11 years free of 2a Hodgkin lymphoma because of Roswell. –Kimberly
  • I had no symptoms, I felt great, I had places to go and things to do. I had breast cancer. Get your mammograms, they can and will save your life. –Sharon

See all the responses

Check out Roswell Park’s Facebook post to see how our followers discovered they had cancer.

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Thank you to everyone who submitted responses and shared your story! If you are someone experiencing concerning symptoms, please make an appointment with your physician or call 1-800-ROSWELL. Even after treatment ends, life as a cancer survivor can come with its own challenges, so we encourage you to make an appointment with our Survivorship Center to help you adjust to your new normal.

7 Warning Signs of Cancer

The awareness of early signs and symptoms for cancer types such as skin, cervical, breast, colorectal and oral in order to get them diagnosed and treated at early stage is important.

Some warning signs of cancer are below:

Warning signs What to look for
Unusual bleeding/discharge
Blood in urine or stool
Discharge from any parts of your body, for example nipples, penis, etc.
A sore which does not heal Sores that:
don’t seem to be getting better over time
are getting bigger
getting more painful
are starting to bleed
Change in bowel or bladder habits
Changes in the colour, consistency, size, or shape of stools. (diarrhoea, constipated)
Blood present in urine or stool
Lump in breast or other part of the body
Any lump found in the breast when doing a self examination.
Any lump in the scrotum when doing a self exam.
Other lumps found on the body.
Nagging cough
Change in voice/hoarseness
Cough that does not go away
Sputum with blood
Obvious change in moles Use the ABCD RULE
Asymmetry: Does the mole look the same in all parts or are there differences?
Border: Are the borders sharp or ragged?
Colour: What are the colours seen in the mole?
Diameter: Is the mole bigger than a pencil eraser (6mm)?
Difficulty in swallowing
Feeling of pressure in throat or chest which makes swallowing uncomfortable
Feeling full without food or with a small amount of food

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about changes in a child’s body and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

Cancer can be hard to detect in children. Children with cancer may experience a variety of the signs or symptoms listed below, many of which are similar to common childhood illnesses. Moreover, sometimes children with cancer do not show any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition altogether that is not cancer.
Many of the symptoms can be described using an acronym (CHILDCANCER) provided by The Pediatric Oncology Resource Center. (Please note this link takes you to a separate website.)

  • Continued, unexplained weight loss

  • Headaches, often with early morning vomiting

  • Increased swelling or persistent pain in the bones, joints, back, or legs

  • Lump or mass, especially in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis, or armpits

  • Development of excessive bruising, bleeding, or rash

  • Constant, frequent, or persistent infections

  • A whitish color behind the pupil

  • Nausea that persists or vomiting without nausea

  • Constant tiredness or noticeable paleness

  • Eye or vision changes that occur suddenly and persist

  • Recurring or persistent fevers of unknown origin

If you are concerned about any changes in your child, please talk with your family doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often your child has been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.
If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms is an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may be called palliative care or supportive care. It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your child’s health care team about symptoms your child experiences, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

Breast cancer symptoms

Perhaps the most recognized symptom of breast cancer is a lump or mass in the breast tissue. While many women go to the doctor after finding a lump, every woman should also be aware of other changes to the breast or nipple.

With the different types of breast cancer come a variety of related symptoms. For example, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), which forms in the milk ducts, may cause a distinct breast lump that you can feel. Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), which forms in milk-producing glands, may cause a thickening in the breast.

Early warning signs of breast cancer

Symptoms of breast tumors vary from person to person. Some common, early warning signs of breast cancer include:

  • Skin changes, such as swelling, redness, or other visible differences in one or both breasts
  • An increase in size or change in shape of the breast(s)
  • Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • General pain in/on any part of the breast
  • Lumps or nodes felt on or inside of the breast

Symptoms more specific to invasive breast cancer are:

  • Irritated or itchy breasts
  • Change in breast color
  • Increase in breast size or shape (over a short period of time)
  • Changes in touch (may feel hard, tender or warm)
  • Peeling or flaking of the nipple skin
  • A breast lump or thickening
  • Redness or pitting of the breast skin (like the skin of an orange)

It’s important to remember that other, benign conditions may have caused these changes. For example, changes to the skin texture on the breast may be caused by a skin condition like eczema, and swollen lymph nodes may be caused by an infection in the breast or another, unrelated illness. Seeing a doctor for an evaluation will help you determine whether something you notice is cause for concern.

Invasive breast cancer symptoms

Invasive breast cancer symptoms may include:

  • A lump or mass in the breast
  • Swelling of all or part of the breast, even if no lump is felt
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • The nipple or breast skin appears red, scaly, or thickened
  • Nipple discharge
  • A lump or swelling in the underarm lymph nodes

Ductal carcinoma symptoms

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) does not cause any symptoms. Rarely, a woman may feel a lump in the breast or have nipple discharge. However, most cases of DCIS are detected with a mammogram.

Lobular carcinoma symptoms

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) does not cause symptoms and cannot be seen with a mammogram. This condition is usually found when a doctor is doing a breast biopsy for another reason, such as to investigate an unrelated breast lump. If a person has LCIS, the breast cells will appear abnormal under a microscope.

Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms

Unlike other breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) rarely causes breast lumps and may not appear on a mammogram. Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms include:

  • Red, swollen, itchy breast that is tender to the touch
  • The surface of the breast may take on a ridged or pitted appearance, similar to an orange peel (often called peau d’orange)
  • Heaviness, burning, or aching in one breast
  • One breast is visibly larger than the other
  • Inverted nipple (facing inward)
  • No mass is felt with a breast self-exam
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm and/or above the collarbone
  • Symptoms unresolved after a course of antibiotics

Unlike other breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer usually does not cause a distinct lump in the breast. Therefore, a breast self-exam, clinical breast exam, or even a mammogram may not detect inflammatory breast cancer. Ultrasounds may also miss inflammatory breast cancer. However, the changes to the surface of the breast caused by inflammatory breast cancer can be seen with the naked eye.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer can develop rapidly, and the disease can progress quickly. Any sudden changes in the texture or appearance of the breast should be reported to your doctor immediately.

For women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, redness, swelling, itchiness and soreness are often signs of a breast infection such as mastitis, which is treatable with antibiotics. If you are not pregnant or nursing and you develop these symptoms, your doctor should test for inflammatory breast cancer.

Metastatic breast cancer symptoms

Metastatic breast cancer symptoms depend on the part of the body to which the cancer has spread and its stage. Sometimes, metastatic disease may not cause any symptoms.

  • If the breast or chest wall is affected, symptoms may include pain, nipple discharge, or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
  • If the bones are affected, symptoms may include pain, fractures, constipation or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
  • If tumors form in the lungs, symptoms may include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, chest wall pain or extreme fatigue.
  • If the liver is affected, symptoms may include nausea, extreme fatigue, increased abdominal girth, swelling of the feet and hands due to fluid collection and yellowing or itchy skin.
  • If breast cancer spreads to the brain or spinal cord and forms tumors, symptoms may include pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with speech, difficulty with movement or seizures.

Papillary carcinoma symptoms

Although papillary carcinoma may not be present, a routine mammogram may detect its development. For those who do experience symptoms related to this type of cancer, the following may be common:

Mass: Papillary carcinoma is most often detected as a cyst or lump of about 2 cm to 3 cm in size that may be felt with the hand during a breast self-exam.

Nipple discharge: About 50 percent of papillary carcinomas occur beneath the nipple, resulting in bloody nipple discharge.

Triple-negative breast cancer symptoms

Although triple-negative breast cancer does not look different from other breast cancer, it has several unique characteristics, including:

Receptor status: Tests that detect receptors for estrogen, progesterone and HER2 will be negative, which means hormone therapy, a traditional breast cancer treatment, is not effective. Instead, triple-negative breast cancer treatment options will include chemotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation.

More aggressive: A greater tendency to spread and recur after treatment compared to other breast cancer types. This risk decreases after the first few years following therapy.

Cell type and grade: Triple-negative breast cancer cells tend to be “basal-like,” meaning that they resemble the basal cells lining the breast ducts. The cells may also be higher grade, which means that they no longer resemble normal, healthy cells.

Male breast cancer symptoms

Male breast cancer symptoms can be similar to those experienced by women and may include:

  • Lumps in the breast, usually painless
  • Thickening of the breast
  • Changes to the nipple or breast skin, such as dimpling, puckering or redness
  • Discharge of fluid from the nipples

Next topic: What are the types of breast cancer?

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