What Does Cancer Feel Like?

Cancer remains a difficult disease to diagnose because it is capable of causing so many symptoms. The signs depend on the size and position of the cancer and the extent that it is affecting the tissues or organs. If the cancer metastasizes (spreads), its symptoms change and can appear in every region where it has spread. Therefore, knowing the answer to "What does cancer feel like" is better, as the moment you start to have such feelings, you can contact your doctor for early check and diagnosis.

Pain: Obvious Symptom That Cancer Can Cause

Pain is an indicator of something being wrong with the usual cause being an injury or an illness. In either case, the nervous system notifies the brain of a problem by sending a pain signal through the nerves. When the signal is received, the pain is felt. Every kind of pain is transmitted in the same manner, including pain due to cancer. As not every type of cancer causes similar pain, the type of pain you feel can give an indication about a broad cancer type at least. For instance:

  • Deep, aching pain. Deep and aching pain is usually caused by a tumor that is present close to the bones or that grows into the bones. This kind of pain caused by cancer is mostly bone pain.
  • Burning pain. Burning pain is caused by tumors that press on parts of nerves. Cancer treatments like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can sometimes damage nerves and give rise to a burning feeling.
  • Phantom pain. Phantom pain is the sensation of pain in an area where a body part, like a breast or an arm, has been removed. The pain is felt even though there is no body part because of the nerve endings in the region continue to send the pain signals to the brain.

Going into further detail, the region of pain can give a good idea about the type of cancer. For example:

  • ŸBack pain. Pancreatic cancer normally causes back pain. Pancreas is an acid creating gland which helps in the digestion of food. When a tumor grows and obstructs the pancreatic duct, the acid accumulates in the pancreas and eats it away. This leads to abdominal pain which often stretches to the back. In case back pain persists, doesn't go away with anti-inflammatory medications and pale stools accompany the pain, you should talk to your doctor to check for pancreatic cancer.
  • ŸArm Pain. This is often associated with lung cancer. Normally, problems in breathing and coughing are lung cancer's most common symptoms. However, arm pain is also a possible indicator of the problem. This happens because the cancer cells blockade blood vessels. The pain starts from the neck and shoulder region and then radiates to the inside of the arm which can get worse with time. The pain is similar to the pain caused by a pinched nerve. It stays unrelenting and no comfort is found whether one sits, stands or keeps the arm in any position.

People's Experiences

"My dad's cancer caused him the most pain in his life. He always looked very sick, weak and pale and the chemo made everything even worse. He said that he felt that he was always suffering from a very intense attack of flu or any other virus."

"My wife has been asked 'What does cancer feel like' and her answer was that her breast cancer felt like nothing (caused no pain) before the treatment started. All the pain she felt was during the operation, the chemo and the radiation therapy. The pain was so intense that it even made her unforgettable."

More than Pain: Other Signs and Symptoms That Cancer Can Cause

Many people say there is no pain when asked "What does cancer feel like." The reason behind this is that cancers don't have any nerves. Cancers can only cause pain when the tumor presses on the nerves close to the region in which it is growing. If the tumor stays clear of the nerves, you won't feel any pain because of it.

Cancers can also cause other symptoms like fatigue, weight loss and fever even if they cause no pain. This happens because most of the body's energy is taken up by cancer cells. In some cases, cancer cells release substances that reduce the body's capability of turning food into energy. Since cancer also affects the immune system, such symptoms might also generate as an immune system malfunction.

Cancer is also capable of causing symptoms that are not commonly linked with it. For instance, a few pancreatic cancers release substances in the bloodstream that create blood clots in the leg's veins. A few lung cancers release substances that increase the levels of blood calcium, which in return affects both muscles and nerves and causes the person to feel dizzy and weak.

Watch out 4 cancer warning signs as the following video lists.

When Should You Seek Medical Help?

Since the answer to "what does cancer feel like in its initial development" is nothing different with other illness, you won't be able to pick up the scent of cancer on your own at the beginning anyways. So, the best you can do is to get yourself checked by a doctor regularly.

To be on the safe side, if you feel anything different or observe a possible sign of cancer, you should get in touch with your doctor right away, even if you don't feel unwell at all.

A lot of people don't want to waste their doctor's time and don't want to come across as obnoxious individuals and thus, don't go to their doctors even if they develop a possible cancer symptom or even if they sense something wrong with their body. You shouldn't worry about this at all and go to the doctor right away in any such case.

It is possible that the doctor would find nothing wrong and it is also possible that the doctor might find something problematic and ask you to get a few tests done to know exactly what is going on. In any case, seeing the doctor would stop you from worrying about whether or not you have cancer one way or another.