When cancer begins it invariably produces no symptoms with signs and symptoms only appearing as the mass continues to grow or ulcerates. The findings that result depends on the type and location of the cancer. Few symptoms are specific, with many of them also frequently occurring in individuals who have other conditions.
Local symptoms may occur due to the mass of the tumor or its ulceration. For example, mass effects from lung cancer can cause blockage of the bronchus resulting in cough or pneumonia; esophageal cancer can cause narrowing of the esophagus, making it difficult or painful to swallow; and Colorectal cancer may lead to narrowing or blockages in the bowel, resulting in changes in bowel habits. Masses of breast or testicles may be easily felt. Ulceration can cause bleeding which, if it occurs in the lung, will lead to coughing up blood, in the bowels to anemia or rectal bleeding, in the bladder to blood in the urine, and in the uterus to vaginal bleeding. Although localized pain may occur in advanced cancer, the initial swelling is usually painless. Some cancers can cause build up of fluid within the chest or abdomen.
General symptoms occur due to distant effects of the cancer that are not related to direct or metastatic spread. These may include: unintentional weight loss, fever, being excessively tired, and changes to the skin Hodgkin disease, leukemia, and cancers of the liver or kidney can cause a persistent fever of unknown origin
Specific constellations of systemic symptoms, termed Paraneoplastic phenomena, may occur with some cancers. Examples include the appearance of Myasthenia gravis in thymoma and Nail clubbing in lung cancer.