Unexplained weight loss, fatigue, fever, pain and skin changes are the five most common signs and symptoms of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Each of these may be indicative of other conditions, but if any sign or symptom persists, medical evaluation is recommended.
One of the first signs of cancer may be unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more, states the American Cancer Society. While most cancer patients lose weight at some point during their illness, weight loss is most common with lung, pancreatic, stomach and esophageal cancers.
Fatigue often develops as cancer grows, but it may be one of the first signs of leukemia, notes the American Cancer Society. Fever may be an early sign of leukemia or lymphoma, but this symptom is also more likely to develop as the cancer grows. Pain may be an early symptom of bone or testicular cancer, but pain related to cancer usually occurs after the cancer has spread. Severe headaches may point to brain cancer, while back pain may be indicative of ovarian, rectal or colon cancer. Darkening, reddening or yellowing of the skin, itching, and an increase in hair growth may also be signs of cancer.
Specific cancers produce certain symptoms, notes the American Cancer Society. Sores that do not heal, changes in bowel or bladder habits, unusual bleeding or discharge, presence of a lump or thickening, and persistent cough or hoarseness are possible signs of cancer and require medical evaluation.