Cancer can cause a variety of symptoms. Possible signs of cancer include the following:
- new thickening or lump in the breast or any other part of the body such as your neck, armpit or groin
- new mole or an obvious change in the appearance of an existing wart or mole
- a sore that does not heal
- nagging cough or hoarseness
- changes in bowel or bladder habits
- persistent 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 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 because early cancer usually does not cause pain.
If symptoms occur, the doctor may perform a physical examination, order blood work and other tests, and/or recommend a biopsy. In most cases, a biopsy is the only way to know for certain whether cancer is present. During a biopsy, the doctor removes a sample of tissue from the abnormal area. A pathologist studies the tissue under a microscope to identify cancer cells.