Cancer Signs & Symptoms

The American Cancer Society uses the word "CAUTION" to remind us about the seven signs and symptoms of cancer. St. Vincent Health encourages all patients to tell your physician about signs and symptoms that are worrisome to you. Beyond the seven signs listed below, do not ignore repeated infections, unexplained weight loss, chronic pain the in the bones or belly, or persistent headaches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or low-grade fever. When symptoms last more than two weeks, schedule a medical appointment.

A lung cancer cell dividing

A lung cancer cell dividing as photographed by colored scanning electron micrograph. Source

  1. Change in bowel or bladder habit
  2. A sore that does not heal
  3. Unusual bleeding or discharge
  4. Thickening or lump in the breast, testicles or elsewhere
  5. Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
  6. Obvious change in the size, color, shape or thickness of a wart, mole or mouth sore
  7. Nagging cough or hoarseness

St. Vincent Cancer Care physicians treat all types of pediatric and adult cancers. The list below represents the primary types of cancer care at St. Vincent. We diagnose and treat challenging, aggressive, and recurrent types of cancer in men, women and children.  To learn more about a specific cancer go to the St. Vincent Health Information Library or call the Cancer Care line 317-338-3800.

Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

Brain or spinal cancer: Unexplained headaches or pain, seizures, sensory changes (vision, smell or hearing) or changes in memory and your emotional state, as well as, a loss of balance,

Bone cancer: Bone pain, joint swelling and stiffness, limping, and in some cases fever, fatigue and anemia (low red blood cell level).

Breast cancer: Warm, swollen breast, puckering, dimpling, redness or scaling of the breast, nipple discharge (including blood) or a nipple that turns inwards, lumps that feel hard in the breast or under the arm.

Colorectal cancer: Change in bowel habits: bright red or very dark blood in the stool, diarrhea, abdomen discomfort including gas, bloating and cramps, or unexplained anemia (low level of red blood cells).

Endometrial cancer: Bleeding or spotting between periods. Bleeding after menopause is never normal.

Esophageal or stomach cancer: Trouble swallowing on a consistent basis, especially if it includes vomiting or weight loss, or heartburn that doesn't go away or gets worse.

Head and neck cancers: Red or white patch in the mouth or on the tongue or lips, or a throat sore that does not heal, difficulty swallowing or breathing, frequent nose bleeds and/or unusual nose discharge, jaw pain or difficulty chewing or using the tongue, coughing up blood, foul mouth odor, or hoarseness.

Kidney and bladder cancer: Blood in the urine, especially if it lasts more than a day or two.

Leukemia, Lymphoma cancer: Lumps or swollen areas of the body, especially the lymph nodes that last a month or more, or fever that doesn't go away.

Liver or pancreatic cancer: Unintended weight loss, belly pain.

Lung cancer: Shortness of breath, persistent cough (especially if coughing up blood or the mucus is bloody), chest pain, or loss of appetite.

Oral cancer: Smokers should watch for white or bright red skin patches inside of your mouth or lips.

Ovarian cancer: Constant bloating or bloating that is unchanged after several weeks or heartburn that doesn't go away or gets worse.

Prostate cancer: Frequent urination or urgency especially at night, a weak or interrupted flow, blood in the urine or seminal fluid, pain or burning during urination, discomfort while sitting from an enlarged prostate.

Skin cancer: Changes in the size (larger than a pencil eraser), shape or color of a mole, wart or spot on your skin including on your face, ears, hands and arms.  Also look at the borders for ragged or notched edges.

Testicular cancer: Enlargement of the testicle, any size lump or area of hardness on the testicle, pain, discomfort or heaviness in the testicle or scrotum, breast tenderness, lower back, groin or lower abdomen pain, or shortness of breath.

Thyroid cancer: Lump on the side of the neck near the Adam's apple, hoarseness, swollen glands in the neck, difficulty swallowing or breathing, pain in the throat or neck, or a persistent cough not caused by a cold.

Childhood Cancers

This acronym1 is a reminder for the signs and symptoms of childhood cancers. The Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent is a comprehensive Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases. To get answers to your questions call (available 24 hours a day) at 317-338-KIDS (5437).

Continued, unexplained weight loss
Headaches, often with 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 with nausea
Constant tiredness or noticeable paleness
Eye or vision changes that occur suddenly and are persistent
Recurring or persistent fevers of unknown origin

1Source: and (Association of Cancer Online Resources)