Symptoms depend on the type and location of the tumor. For example, lung tumors may cause coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Tumors of the colon can cause weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, iron deficiency anemia, and blood in the stool.
Some tumors may not cause any symptoms. In certain tumors, such as pancreatic cancer, symptoms often do not start until the disease has reached an advanced stage.
The following symptoms occur with most tumors:
Like the symptoms, the signs of tumors vary based on their site and type. Some tumors are obvious, such as skin cancer. However, most cancers cannot be seen during an exam because they are deep inside the body.
When a tumor is found, a biopsy is performed to determine if the tumor is noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Depending on the location of the tumor, the biopsy may be a simple procedure or a serious operation.
Most patients with tumors have CT or MRI scans to determine the exact location of the tumor and how far it has spread. More recently, positron emission tomography (PET) scans have been used to find certain tumor types.
Other tests include:
Moscow JA, Cowan KH. Biology of cancer. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 187.
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