Signs & symptoms before diagnosis

Cancer is a complex of disorders which can cause almost any sign or symptom. The symptoms and signs rely on where the cancer is, how big it is, and how much it affects the tissues or organs. Sometimes, only when a cancer has spread (metastasised), tissues in the body display signs and symptoms.

Cancer often starts in places where it is not going to cause any signs or symptoms until it has grown significantly. For example, pancreatic cancers do not normally cause health issues until they develop large enough to press on nearby nerves or organs (this triggers back pain or abdominal pain). Some can spread across the bile duct, blocking the bile flow. This results in yellowness of the skin and eyes (jaundice). By the time, a pancreatic cancer is diagnosed it is usually in an elevated level causing such signs or symptoms. This implies that it has grown and spread beyond the place it began.

A few general signs and cancer symptoms are:


  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Changes in the skin
  • Change in bowel habits or urinary function
  • Sores not healing
  • White patches on the tongue within the mouth or white patches
  • Unexpected bleeding or discharge
  • Thickening or lumping in the breast or other parts of the body
  • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent cough or hoarse voice