7 Warning Signs of Cancer in Adults That Should Not Be Ignored

Cancer affects millions of people every year. While some cancers may not produce symptoms until they reach an advanced stage, others can have signs that manifest early on. Being able to recognize these warning signs is crucial, as catching cancer early significantly improves one’s chances of survival. Here are 7 warning signs of cancer that adults should not ignore.

Unexplained Weight Loss

One of the most common warning signs of cancer is unexplained weight loss. Losing weight without trying or without any change in diet or exercise habits could indicate an underlying health issue like cancer. This happens because cancer cells consume a lot of energy and essentially compete with normal cells for nutrients. Pay attention if you lose more than 10 pounds without actively dieting. While weight loss may also be caused by thyroid issues or depression, it’s important to rule out cancer as well.

Fever or Chills

A fever or chills that you cannot attribute to any particular illness or infection may be a sign of cancer. This usually indicates that the cancer is in an advanced stage and has spread to other organs. Leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers are examples that could produce fevers and chills. Fevers may come and go or be persistent. Take note of any fevers above 100.5F that have no clear origin and get checked out.

Changes in Lymph Nodes

Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes, especially in the neck, underarm, or groin region, are a common warning sign of cancer. Lymph nodes help filter cancer cells from tissues. So when there is cancer in the body, lymph nodes may swell as they fill with cancer cells. Lymphoma is one type of cancer that arises from lymph tissue. But enlarged lymph nodes may also indicate cancers like breast cancer, melanoma, and others that have spread.

Frequent Headaches

Headaches are very common, but an uptick in frequency or severity could be a cancer symptom. This is especially true if the headaches seem worse in the morning or cause you to wake from sleep. Brain cancers like glioblastoma can cause worsening headaches. But cancer that has spread to the brain from elsewhere, like lung cancer, is even more likely to cause headaches. If you notice a distinct change in headache patterns, get evaluated by your doctor.

Shortness of Breath

Breathing difficulties or shortness of breath (dyspnea) can have many causes, including lung cancer. Since lung cancer often does not cause symptoms in its early stages, shortness of breath is a common warning sign that indicates the cancer has spread. But shortness of breath may also be a sign of lung cancer that blocks airways or causes fluid to build up. Other cancers like mesothelioma or lymphomas in the chest can likewise lead to breathlessness.

Blood in Stool or Urine

Blood in the stool or urine that is not explained by common conditions like hemorrhoids or a urinary tract infection may point to cancer. Colorectal cancers tend to bleed slowly, leading to anemia. So even if you do not notice blood itself, symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath from anemia could be related. See your doctor if you have unexplained blood.

Skin Changes

Changes to your skin like a new mole or spot, a sore that does not heal, or a dark streak under a nail may indicate skin cancer. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Look out for new growths that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, appear mottled, or have a diameter greater than 6 millimeters. Also be on the lookout for spots that evolve or change rapidly. Catching melanoma early vastly improves prognosis. Other examples are shiny waxy bumps that could be basal cell carcinoma and scaly reddish patches that may be squamous cell carcinoma.

When to See Your Doctor

Pay attention if you observe any of these cancer warning signs. While each symptom on its own may not be reason for alarm, discuss any unexplained or worsening issues with your doctor, especially if multiple symptoms arise. Some cancers can spread and become life-threatening quickly, so early detection is key. Though warning signs are not definitive proof of cancer, getting checked out promptly gives you the best odds for successful treatment and survival if cancer is found. Cancer screening tests paired with recognizing these symptoms offer the best safeguard.


Cancer remains one of the biggest health concerns facing adults worldwide. Knowing what changes to keep an eye out for is a crucial first step to getting diagnosed and treated early when cancers are most beatable. Listen to your body and talk to your doctor if you experience unexplained weight loss, fevers, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, breathing issues, blood in stool or urine, new or evolving skin growths, and other concerning symptoms. Many conditions could cause these signs, identifying warning signs of cancer in adults and taking swift action leads to better outcomes. Catching cancer early could truly save your life.

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