Red flag cancer symptoms range from unexplained weight loss to heavy night sweats (2023)

The sooner we notice the symptoms of cancer, the sooner we can treat it - but many of us delay seeking help when we feel something is wrong.

A recent survey found that around half of us Brits put off seeing a GP for up to six months after noticing symptoms of cancer.

Survey conducted by a global public opinion and data companyYouGovfound that nearly half of the 2,468 people surveyed contacted their GP within six months of developing serious symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss and a new or unusual lump.

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health and patient engagement at Cancer Research UK, said: "You might think warning signs such as coughing up blood or unexplained bleeding are hard to ignore, but research shows many are."

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The charity says that Srplanting a cancer in a pot at an early stage means a higher probability of treatment success, so if youyou notice something that is not normal for you, talk to your GP.

So what are the red flag symptoms you should watch out for?


Fatigue is something that affects us all, especially since life is generally stressful for many of us these days. If you're having trouble falling asleep at night - and staying asleep - it's perfectly normal to feel more tired than usual.

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But if you slept well andNadalfeeling tired, it may mean that something is wrong. Lack of energy can be a symptom of blood cancers such as lymphoma,leukemiaand multiple myeloma.

These cancers start in the bone marrow - the soft, spongy tissue at the center of most bones - which produces red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.

Pain or pains

Cancer Research UKsays it's normal that the older we get, the more pain it hurts. But any unexplained pain could be a sign that something more serious is going on.

The charity says: "Pain is usually a sign that something is wrong. This is a sign that you have an illness or injury. When there is damage to any part of your body, your nervous system sends a message along the nerves to your brain. When your brain receives these messages, you feel pain. This includes cancer pain."

The health organization says it's important to remember that not all cancers cause pain.

“Many people with cancer do not feel pain. This is because tumors do not have nerves of their own. The pain comes from a tumor pressing on nearby nerves.

Very profuse night sweats

TheNHSsays it's normal for you to sweat at night if your room or bedding is too hot. But night sweats are when you sweat so much that your nightwear and bedding are soaked - even if the place where you sleep is cool.

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Night sweats are common if you are going throughclimacteric, and it's also not unusual for infections or certain medications to raise your temperature up.

But Cancer Research UK recommends seeing your GP if you have an unexplained fever or very severe night sweats. Experts onhealth linesay night sweats are a lesser-known symptom of some types of cancer, including:

  • Bone cancer

  • carcinoids
  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • lymphoma

  • mesothelioma

It's not clear why some types of cancer can cause night sweats. But Healthline says it may be related to the body trying to fight cancer.

“Changes in hormone levels can also be a cause. When cancer causes a fever, your body may sweat excessively in an attempt to cool down," he says.

Unusual lump or swelling

Cancer Research says that any stubborn lumps or swelling in any part of the body should be investigated. This includes any lumps in the groin, armpit, neck, abdomen, chest, breast, or testicles.

Unexplained weight loss

Most of us, if not all, experience small changes in weight every day, and it's nothing to worry about. But if you notice that you look thinner and have not tried to lose weight, it is wise to report it to your doctor.

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Extraordinary weight loss was the second biggest risk factor for colorectal, lung, pancreatic and kidney cancers, researchers atOxford University.

Unusual bleeding or bruising

Any bleeding or bruising that has not been injured should always warrant a visit to your GP. This includes vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause, as well as blood in the urine or stool, and vomiting or coughing up blood.

It's still worth investigating even if you don't think there's a lot of blood, which may be red or darker, such as brown or black.

Changes in the breasts

Usually, the first sign of breast cancer is a lump or lump in the breast. A lump in the breast should always be examined, but you should also be aware if it feels different, is a different size or has any skin changes, redness or pain.

Your nipple's appearance or sensation may also change, and fluid may leak out; this is something to watch out for if you are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

A sore or patch in the mouth or tongue that does not improve

Most of us have experienced mouth ulcers. These are small wounds that can appear after feeling exhausted.

They usually go away within two weeks, but if a sore or a white or red patch on your mouth or tongue just won't go away - and persists for about three weeks - it's wise to tell your dentist or doctor.

Ulcers or spots can sometimes be a symptom of oral and oropharyngeal cancer, as can problems with speech and difficulty swallowing.

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Digestive problems

Digestive problems are wide-ranging and far-reaching and can include indigestion, persistent loss of appetite, sorenessheartburnor flatulence. Typically, bloating may go away as quickly as it started, but may still need to be investigated.

And although heartburn is extremely common after eating a large, fatty or spicy meal, it doesIssomething to worry about if it's particularly painful. The NHS says digestive problems can be an early sign of stomach cancer.

Shortness of breath or persistent cough

If you feel more breathless than usual, it's time to see your doctor. Likewise, if you experience a persistent cough that you just can't change.

Coughs and colds are of course very common, but if your cough doesn't go away within a few weeks or gets worse, it's wise to seek medical attention. Both of the above can be signs of lung cancer.

Changes in the skin

Always look for a wart, sore or spot that isn't healing - even if it doesn't cause any pain. You also need to watch out for any fresh moles or existing moles that change shape, size or color, become itchy, hardened, sore, bleed or ooze.

Your doctor should investigate any unusual changes in the nail or patch of skin - whether it's a recent change or not.

Changes in poop or pee

Each of us should have an idea of ​​what is normal for us when we go to the toilet. This way if thereIfany changes, we can then ask our doctor about them.

Changes in bowel habits may include looser poops, constipation, or more frequent pooping. If these symptoms persist for more than three weeks, it is advisable to speak to your GP as this could be a sign of bowel cancer.

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When it comes to urine, you may experience pain when urinating, have difficulty urinating, or have a strong urge to urinate. These can all be symptoms of bladder cancer. Although a simple urinary tract infection is more likely.

Any blood in your poo or urine is a red flag for cancer, so it's important to discuss these with your doctor.

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Red flag cancer symptoms range from unexplained weight loss to heavy night sweats? ›

Some signs of leukemia, like night sweats, fever, fatigue and achiness, resemble flu-like symptoms. Unlike symptoms of the flu, which generally subside as patients get better, leukemia symptoms generally last longer than two weeks, and may include sudden weight loss, bone and joint pain and easy bleeding or bruising.

What cancers cause night sweats and weight loss? ›

Leukemia and lymphoma are among the cancers associated with night sweats. Those associated with leukemia usually occur in conjunction with symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, or excessive bruising. Leukemia-related sweats may also result from daytime fevers.

Could weight loss and night sweats be warning signs of cancer? ›

In some cases, night sweats occur due to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, drugs that alter hormones, and morphine. If your night sweats occur due to cancer, you'll likely experience other symptoms. This includes a fever and unexplained weight loss.

When should I be concerned about night sweats and weight loss? ›

If your night sweats occur on a regular basis, interrupt your sleep, or are accompanied by a fever or other symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, then you should schedule an appointment with your physician.

What causes night sweats and weight loss? ›

Night sweats and unintentional weight loss can sometimes signal a chronic infection such as tuberculosis. In rare cases other conditions may cause these symptoms. If you are concerned about unintentional weight loss, it is important to seek the advice of your doctor.

Why are night sweats a red flag? ›

Night sweats can be a manifestation of simple infection, underlying malignancy, more complex infections – including TB and HIV – connective tissue disorders, menopause or certain prescribed drugs. It's also important not to overlook possible psychological causes, such as night terrors secondary to PTSD.

What cancers cause rapid weight loss? ›

According to the American Cancer Society, unexplained weight loss is often the first noticeable symptom of cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, stomach, and lung. Other cancers, such as ovarian cancer, are more likely to cause weight loss when a tumor grows large enough to press on the stomach.

What type of cancer causes excessive sweating? ›

Some cancers can cause you to sweat more than usual. These include: non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma.

How do you know if weight loss is from cancer? ›

Unexplained rapid weight loss can be the sign of cancer or other health problems. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you see your doctor if you lose more than 5 percent of your total body weight in six months to a year. To put this into perspective: If you weigh 160 pounds, 5 percent of your body weight is 8 pounds.

Is weight loss one of the seven early warning signs of cancer? ›

Unexplained Weight Loss

Typically, losing 10 pounds or more with no change in lifestyle is a sign of extreme weight loss and should spur a talk with your physician. Unexplained weight loss is associated with cancers of the esophagus, stomach, lung, or pancreas.

How do you know if night sweats are serious? ›

It's also important to seek medical attention if you develop night sweats that happen frequently, disturb your sleep, or are accompanied by other symptoms. Night sweats that occur with a high fever, cough, or unexplained weight loss may be a sign of a serious medical condition.

When are night sweats worrisome? ›

You should speak to a doctor about night sweats if you have symptoms like a fever, cough, or unexplained weight loss, or if you get night sweats regularly.

What diseases cause severe night sweats? ›

  • Alcohol use disorder.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Autoimmune disorders.
  • Autonomic neuropathy (damage to your autonomic nerves)
  • Brucellosis (a bacterial infection)
  • Carcinoid tumors (a type of neuroendocrine tumor)
  • Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  • Endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart)

What cancers cause sweating and weight loss? ›

Those associated with leukemia usually occur in conjunction with symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, or excessive bruising. Leukemia-related sweats may also result from daytime fevers. Excessive sweating is also linked to carcinoid tumors and adrenal tumors.

What autoimmune disease causes night sweats? ›

Autoimmune disorders: Night sweats can sometimes be a symptom of autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and lupus. Autonomic neuropathy: This can lead to problems with excessive sweating.

What can cause unexplained weight loss? ›

Causes of unintentional weight loss
  • mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • problems with digestion, such as coeliac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • other health conditions, such as an overactive thyroid, type 2 diabetes or heart failure.

What do lymphoma night sweats look like? ›

Sweats can happen at any time of the day with lymphoma, but they are most common at night. They are often described as 'drenching' and can make your nightclothes or bed sheets soaking wet.

What tests are done for night sweats? ›

If a history and physical do not reveal a possible diagnosis, physicians should consider a purified protein derivative, complete blood count, human immunodeficiency virus test, thyroid-stimulating hormone test, erythrocyte sedimentation rate evaluation, chest radiograph, and possibly chest and abdominal computed ...

What no one tells you about night sweats? ›

There are several common reasons for night sweats – from spicy foods to warm bedrooms – but excess sweating can be a sign of a medical condition such as an infection, menopause or cancer. “Just being hot at night should not worry anyone,” says Dr.

What tests are done for unexplained weight loss? ›

Commonly performed tests include:
  • Complete blood count (CBC): A complete blood count can reveal evidence of infections, anemia (which can be caused by many conditions that result in unintended weight loss), and more.
  • Thyroid panel.
  • Liver function tests.
  • Kidney function tests.
  • Blood sugar (glucose)
  • Urinalysis.
Feb 9, 2021

Is weight loss a symptom of most cancers? ›

Weight loss is common among people with cancer. It may be the first visible sign of the disease. In fact, 40% of people say they had unexplained weight loss when they were first diagnosed with cancer.

What kind of doctor should I see for unexplained weight loss? ›

Bariatric physicians specialize in treating patients who struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. These doctors receive focused training on treatments for obesity and on ways to improve health through positive lifestyle changes.

What stage of lymphoma is night sweats? ›

The staging of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is unique in that it also assigns the letters A and B to each stage. The letters indicate whether certain symptoms are present. The letter B indicates that the patient is experiencing one or more of the following symptoms: drenching night sweats, fever or unexplained weight loss.

Are cancer night sweats drenching? ›

Drenching night sweats that do not go away and occur with other signs and symptoms, such as fever, weight loss, and fatigue, may be a symptom of some types of cancer, including leukemia and lymphoma. Not all people who have drenching night sweats have cancer.

What is the weight loss pattern in cancer? ›

Weight loss is not a symptom of all types of cancer. It can be caused for a variety of reasons. Sometimes weight loss is directly related to cancer, but other factors such as emotional distress and side effects of treatment can contribute to weight loss. Recent research shows that it can occur at any stage.

How much unexplained weight loss is bad? ›

Your body weight can regularly fluctuate. But the persistent, unintentional loss of more than 5 per cent of your weight over 6 to 12 months is usually a cause for concern. Losing this much weight can be a sign of malnutrition. This is when a person's diet doesn't contain the right amount of nutrients.

Does cancer show up in blood work? ›

Aside from leukemia, most cancers cannot be detected in routine blood work, such as a CBC test. However, specific blood tests are designed to identify tumor markers, which are chemicals and proteins that may be found in the blood in higher quantities than normal when cancer is present.

What are three early warnings for cancer? ›

Sometimes symptoms affect specific areas of the body, such as our tummy or skin. But signs can also be more general, and include weight loss, tiredness (fatigue) or unexplained pain. Some possible signs of cancer, like a lump, are better known than others.

What blood test shows cancer? ›

A complete blood count (CBC) is a common medical test that your doctor may recommend to monitor your health. In cancer care, this blood test can be used to help diagnose a cancer or monitor how cancer or its treatment is affecting your body. For example, people undergoing chemotherapy often receive regular CBCs.

What is considered rapid weight loss? ›

Rapid weight loss diet is a type of diet in which you lose more than 2 pounds (1 kilogram, kg) a week over several weeks.

Why do I wake up drenched in sweat and freezing? ›

Sometimes, the balance between hot and cold is thrown off to the point where these thermoregulation processes cause us to wake up. Waking up shivering cold or hot and sweaty is never a comfortable experience. This can happen due to the sleep environment being too cold or too warm.

What is abnormal night sweats? ›

Night sweats are repeated episodes of very heavy sweating during sleep, heavy enough to soak your nightclothes or bedding. They're often caused by an underlying condition or illness. Sometimes you may wake up after sweating heavily, particularly if you're sleeping under too many blankets or your bedroom is too warm.

Should I go to the ER for night sweats? ›

Schedule a visit with your health care provider if night sweats: Occur on a regular basis. Interrupt your sleep. Are accompanied by a fever, weight loss, pain in a specific area, cough, diarrhea or other symptoms of concern.

Do night sweats mean heart problems? ›

Excessive Sweating

When the arteries become clogged, your heart is forced to work harder to keep blood flowing. In response, your body sweats to keep your temperature down. Night sweats are a common symptom in women who are having heart problems, though the symptom is sometimes mistaken as a sign of menopause.

What do night sweats mean medically? ›

Night sweats are a common symptom of menopause. They may also be caused by illness or medical conditions, such as infection, cancer, low blood sugar, hormone disorders, and neurologic conditions. They may also be a side effect of certain medicines, cancer treatment, too much caffeine or alcohol, or tobacco or drug use.

What neurological problem causes night sweats? ›

Autonomic neuropathy is a group of conditions caused by damage to your nerves. It can lead to many different symptoms, like dizziness, night sweats, and constipation. Nerves are part of your autonomic nervous system.

What are the first signs of having leukemia? ›

Common leukemia signs and symptoms include:
  • Fever or chills.
  • Persistent fatigue, weakness.
  • Frequent or severe infections.
  • Losing weight without trying.
  • Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen.
  • Easy bleeding or bruising.
  • Recurrent nosebleeds.
  • Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)
Sep 21, 2022

Do night sweats mean leukemia? ›

Some signs of leukemia, like night sweats, fever, fatigue and achiness, resemble flu-like symptoms. Unlike symptoms of the flu, which generally subside as patients get better, leukemia symptoms generally last longer than two weeks, and may include sudden weight loss, bone and joint pain and easy bleeding or bruising.

What does lymphoma fatigue feel like? ›

Cancer-related fatigue is exhaustion that's at a much higher level than would usually be expected – you might feel tired very quickly after doing quite little. It can be physical, emotional or mental exhaustion.

Does liver problems cause night sweats? ›

“Almost any kind of infection can cause night sweats,” she says. This includes kidney infections and much rarer infections like tuberculosis. In other cases, the cause may be thyroid or liver disease, or a sleep disorder like obstructive sleep apnea.

Why am I losing weight but I'm eating more? ›

Know that there are a lot of reasons for losing weight even when you're not trying to, many of which are not serious. Specifically, rapid weight loss can indicate a wide range of internal problems, such as mental health issues like anxiety or stress, autoimmune issues, thyroid imbalances, and more.

Why am I so tired all the time and losing weight? ›

The thyroid produces certain hormones that regulate the body's metabolism, so an excess of these hormones often causes the body to burn more energy than usual. Burning more energy and calories can lead to unintentional or unexplained weight loss. Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism include: fatigue.

How many pounds of weight loss is noticeable? ›

CDC further recommends that you need to lose around 5-10% of your total body weight to notice changes. For instance, if you weigh 170 pounds, you need to lose roughly 8.3-17 pounds to notice a difference.

Will lymphoma show up in blood work? ›

Most types of lymphoma can't be diagnosed by a blood test. However, blood tests can help your medical team find out how lymphoma and its treatment are affecting your body. They can also be used to find out more about your general health.

Would lymphoma be detected in a blood test? ›

Blood Tests for Lymphoma

Blood tests are essential to accurately diagnosing this complex disease. These tests can show whether you have lymphoma cells or abnormal levels of normal cells: Blood smear: We take a drop of blood and look at it under a microscope.

What does stage 4 lymphoma feel like? ›

Symptoms of stage 4 lymphoma can include: enlarged lymph nodes under the skin. fatigue. chills.

What malignancies cause night sweats? ›

Cancers associated with night sweats include bone cancer, carcinoid tumours, leukaemia and liver cancer, although they can affect people with other types of cancer too. There is also a connection between drenching night sweats and lymphoma specifically (see below).

What cancers cause excessive sweating? ›

Some cancers can cause you to sweat more than usual.
These include:
  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • carcinoid tumours.
  • leukaemia.
  • mesothelioma.
  • bone cancer.
  • liver cancer.

What is a drenching night sweat? ›

(DREN-ching …) Episodes of excessive sweating that occur during sleep and soak a person's bedclothes and bed sheets, which may cause the person to wake up.

What does Stage 1 leukemia look like? ›

Stage 1 – A patient has high levels of white blood cells and enlarged lymph nodes. Stage 2 – A patient has high levels of white blood cells and is anemic. He or she may also have enlarged lymph nodes. Stage 3 – A patient has high levels of white blood cells and is anemic.

When should you suspect leukemia? ›

When is a patient tested for leukemia? "A patient may be tested for leukemia if he or she has unexplained weight loss, night sweats or fatigue, or if he or she bruises or bleeds easily," Dr. Siddon says. "Sometimes routine blood work shows an unexplained elevated number of white blood cells."

Does leukemia cause weight loss? ›

Leukaemia can cause weight loss in a very direct manner, because rapidly dividing cancer cells use up large amounts of energy that your body would otherwise utilise or store as fat.

When should you suspect lymphoma? ›

Swollen lymph nodes, fever, and night sweats are common symptoms of lymphoma. Symptoms of lymphoma often depend on the type you have, what organs are involved, and how advanced your disease is. Some people with lymphoma will experience obvious signs of the disease, while others won't notice any changes.

What autoimmune disease mimics lymphoma? ›

Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease (KFD), or histiocytic necrotizing lymphadenitis, is an extremely rare entity belonging to the large group of diseases that may cause lymph node enlargement.

Are night sweats a symptom of myeloma? ›

Multiple myeloma can present with various general symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and night sweats. Bone pain can occur in the pelvic and vertebral bones. However, there are a few reports of abdominal pain as an initial symptom of multiple myeloma.


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