Lifespan Cancer Institute

Cancer Symptoms Not to Ignore

Many subtle cancer symptoms may seem like trivial problems, but often these can be a sign of something much more serious. It is important to talk to your physician about any unusual signs you experience; it may be your body trying to tell you something.

The most common cancer symptoms include:

Persistent cough or blood in cough

These symptoms usually present themselves for other problems, such as bronchitis or sinusitis, but they could be symptoms of lung, head or neck cancers.

Changes in bowel habits or blood in stool or urine

Most changes in bowel habits are related to diet and fluid intake, but unusual bowel movements can be linked to colon cancer.

Doctors should always investigate blood in the stool. Hemorrhoids are a frequent cause, but they may also exist with cancer.

Unexplained anemia (low red blood cell count)

Bowel cancers often cause iron deficiency anemia. 

Unexplained weight loss

It is not normal to lose 10 pounds or more without trying. It is possible this is an early sign of cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus or lung.

Finding Compassion and Strength

Lisa Jacome, a patient who had advanced ovarian cancer, benefitted from hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) at Lifespan Women's Medicine Collaborative.

Difficulty swallowing

This could be a sign of esophageal cancer.

Persistent lumps or swollen glands

Swollen glands often signify that your body is fighting an infection, but some cancers like lymphoma and leukemia can cause swelling.

Obvious change in a wart or mole

A change in size, shape or color of a wart or mole should be investigated by a doctor. These are signs of skin cancer.

Unusual breast changes

Most breast changes are not caused by cancer, but these signs are still important to bring to your physician’s attention.


Extreme fatigue is one of the signs of leukemia. Stomach and colon cancer cause blood loss, which contributes to fatigue.  

These symptoms are most often caused by something other than cancer, but they could be a sign of the disease. If symptoms do not go away, see your physician. Spotting cancer symptoms early means treatment is more likely to be successful.

Learn more about the Lifespan Cancer Institute