How long can you have cancer and not know it? Early detection (2023)

if you read about itRakor hear that a friend or loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, it's natural to have many questions.

Do you have a cancerous tumor somewhere? How long can you have cancer and not know it? Do you need to take the test?

It is true that some types of cancer are diagnosed only after symptoms appear. This can happen after the disease has spread or when the tumor is large enough to be felt or seen on imaging tests.

However, many types of cancer can be diagnosed early, before symptoms appear. You have the best chance of survival and a healthy quality of life when cancer is diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

This article explores which forms of cancer are most likely to go undetected and how you can increase your chances of early detection of possible forms of cancer.

Some types of cancer are easier to detect than others. For example, some types of skin cancer can be initially diagnosed by visual examination alone - although a biopsy is required to confirm the diagnosis.

However, other types of cancer can develop and grow undetected.10 years or moreAs one study has shown, this makes diagnosis and treatment much more difficult.

This table provides an overview of common types of cancer that usually have few or no symptoms, and how they are usually recognized and diagnosed:

type of cancerAs usual, it is recognized and diagnosed
testicular cancerWhen cancer develops in one or both testicles, a man can go a long time without any visible symptoms. A characteristic lump in the scrotum can usually be detected by regular testicular self-examination, but not always.
Cervical cancerSymptoms usually do not appear until the cancer is in an advanced stage. Regular Pap smears can help detect precancerous lesions and lead to treatment that can prevent them from turning into cancer.
pancreatic cancerSymptoms can be subtle and usually do not become apparent until the cancer has advanced. This is why survival rates are low.
breast cancerAs with testicular cancer, self-examination can usually detect lumps or other changes in the breast that indicate an early stage of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are also key in detecting tumors when they are small and there are no other obvious symptoms.
rak prostateThere are usually no symptoms at first. ANDPSA test for prostate specific antigenwhich is usually part of a man's regular blood test, can detect markers in his blood that are linked to prostate cancer.
ovarian cancerSymptoms may not be obvious at first, but when they appear, they are sudden and persistent. An annual Pap smear does not detect ovarian cancer. Tests that can be used to diagnose ovarian cancer include a complete blood count, a tumor antigen test, and other tests for germ cell tumors.
lung cancerCough and hoarseness are the most common symptoms of lung cancer. Your doctor will diagnose you with a physical exam, imaging tests, and microscopic examination of sputum if you produce mucus when you cough.
skin cancereven though you can'tfeelEarly symptoms, changes in skin appearance, and even small moles or spots can be early signs of skin cancer. It is important to perform thorough skin examinations and have them performed regularly by dermatologists.
linda to the thick policeThis slow-growing cancer can exist for a long time before symptoms appear. Colonoscopy remains the best test for detecting precancerous and cancerous colon polyps.
kidney cancerKidney cancer does not usually cause symptoms in its early stages. A complete blood count and physical examination are often the first signs of cancer in one or both kidneys. The survival rate for cancer that has not spread beyond the kidney is generally high.
(Video) Early Detection of Lung Cancer: What you need to know.

Symptomatic vs. asymptomatic cancer

When a cancer or disease is present, but there are no visible symptoms, it is called asymptomatic.

Many cancers in their early stages are asymptomatic, which is why regular screenings are so important.

Cancers that cause obvious symptoms early are called symptomatic cancers. These cancers require immediate diagnosis in order to be treated effectively.

Although sudden or severe symptoms do not automatically indicate cancer, the sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner you can start treatment or have peace of mind knowing that the cause of your symptoms is benign.

How long can you have cancer and not know it? Early detection (1)

This table shows the symptoms of early and late stages of asymptomatic tumors:

type of cancerfirst symptomsLater stage symptoms
bladder cancerblood in the urinelower back pain; inability to urinate
breast cancerlumps in the breastswelling in the chest or arm; Difficulties
Colon and rectal cancerchanges in bowel habits; bloody stoolsunexplained weight loss; Nausea; weakness
endometrial shelfabnormal bleedingabdominal pain and bloating; Changes in bowel habits
kidney cancerback pain, often unilateral; blood in the urineunexplained weight loss; Fever
leukemiaflu-like symptoms; easy bruisingpains in bones and joints; Weakness; enlarged lymph nodes
liver cancerskin jaundice; pain in the right sidestomach pain; Vomit; weakness
lung cancerpersistent or worsening cough; coughing up bloodfluid in the lungs; severe fatigue; dyspnoea
MelanomaThe mole is irregularly shaped or darkenshardened lump under the skin; enlarged lymph nodes
non-Hodgkin's lymphomaenlarged and painless lymph nodes; fatigueweight loss; Fever; stomach pain; night sweats
pancreatic cancerjaundice; back pain; fatigueEdema; digestive problems; lose weight
rak prostatedifficulty urinating; blood in the urinebladder problems; loss of bowel control; groin pain
thyroid cancerknots on the back of the neck; voice changesbreathing problems; Sore throat; difficulty swallowing

The signs and symptoms of the disease can be two different things:

  • ASignalcan be noticed by another person, such as B. a change in skin color or difficulty breathing.
  • ASymptomsit is something you feel, like fatigue or pain, that is not visible to others.

The nature of cancer signs and symptoms varies greatly depending on the location of the cancer.

For example, bladder cancer causes blood in the urine, while brain cancer causes a terrible headache.

When do the first signs and symptoms appear?

Usually, the signs and symptoms of cancer do not appear until the tumor or cancerous mass has grown so large that it begins to press on nearby organs and tissues, blood vessels and nerves.

This can cause pain, a change in the functioning of nearby organs, or both. For example, a brain tumor pressing on the optic nerve worsens vision.

Some types of cancer, such as liver and pancreatic cancer, grow quickly. However, prostate cancer usually progresses slowly. For this reason, many older men with prostate cancer give up treatment. They are more likely to die from prostate cancer than from it.

(Video) Peter Attia, MD: How to Detect Cancer Early - Before it Spreads

Screening for certain types of cancer should be part of routine health care. These include cancers of:

  • Prostate
  • chest
  • colon and rectum
  • cervix
  • Alt

Your age, gender, family history, and personal medical history will determine when and how often to start routine checkups.

If you are concerned about symptoms associated with different types of cancer, do not hesitate to consult a doctor. You can connect with a doctor in your area.Alat GesundLine FindCare.

Symptoms that require an urgent visit to the doctor

Some common symptoms of cancer that should prompt you to visit the emergency room or doctor as soon as possible include:

  • coughing up blood
  • blood in the stool or urine
  • Lumps in the breasts, testicles, armpits or where there were none before
  • unexplained but noticeable weight loss
  • severe unexplained headache, pain in the neck, chest, abdomen or pelvis

These and other signs and symptoms are evaluated. Screening tests, such as blood and urine tests and imaging tests, will be done if your doctor thinks it is appropriate.

These tests are performed to make a diagnosis and to rule out various causes of signs and symptoms.

When you visit your doctor, give him the following information:

  • Your personal medical history, including any symptoms you've experienced and when they started
  • Family history of cancer or other chronic diseases
  • A list of all medications and nutritional supplements you are taking

Why early detection of cancer is important

(Video) Detect Lung cancer early

For some types of cancer that are screened regularly, survival rates tend to be high. This is because they are usually diagnosed early, before symptoms appear.

The 5-year survival rate for people withchestlubricantProstateCancer is almost 100% present. Localized means that it has not spread beyond the original tissue or organ. Melanoma detected early is approx99 place5-year survival rate.

However, it is difficult to detect some types of cancer early. For some types of cancer, there are no guidelines for regular screening, and symptoms may not appear until the cancer is in an advanced stage.

To protect yourself from these types of cancer:

  • Remember regular blood tests and annual checkups.
  • Report any new symptoms to your doctor, even if they seem minor.
  • Talk to your doctor about testing if you have a family history of a certain type of cancer.

If you are wondering how long you can have cancer and not know it, there is no definitive answer. Some cancers can exist for months or years before they are detected.

Some cancers that often go undetected are slow-growing diseases that give doctors a better chance of successful treatment. Others are more aggressive and more difficult to treat.

To increase your chances of detecting a possible cancer early, follow the recommended cancer screening schedule and report any signs or symptoms of concern to your doctor as soon as possible.

The sooner your cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better your chances of a successful outcome.

(Video) Early Detection of Breast Cancer | Health Insiders


How long can you have cancer and not know it? Early detection? ›

If you're wondering how long you can have cancer without knowing it, there's no straight answer. Some cancers can be present for months or years before they're detected. Some commonly undetected cancers are slow-growing conditions, which gives doctors a better chance at successful treatment.

Can you have advanced cancer without knowing? ›

Several types of cancer do not show symptoms until they progress into advanced stages. Therefore, it is necessary for individuals, especially those with higher risk, to monitor their symptoms. They must consult their doctor if there is any concern about the signs.

Can you be riddled with cancer and not know? ›

Sometimes, a cancer diagnosis comes out of the blue, with no symptoms at all. But more often, there are various symptoms that may be warning signs of the disease.

How do you feel when diagnosed with cancer? ›

Many people with cancer feel sad. They feel a sense of loss of their health, and the life they had before they learned they had the disease. Even when you're done with treatment, you may still feel sad. This is a common response to any serious illness.

What cancer Cannot be detected early? ›

It's because of this location, surrounded and obscured by internal organs, that pancreatic tumors are impossible to see or feel during a routine medical exam. Making diagnosis even more difficult is the fact that in its early stages, pancreatic cancer is usually a so-called “silent” disease and causes no symptoms.

How long can you go without noticing cancer? ›

If you're wondering how long you can have cancer without knowing it, there's no straight answer. Some cancers can be present for months or years before they're detected. Some commonly undetected cancers are slow-growing conditions, which gives doctors a better chance at successful treatment.

How long cancer can go undetected? ›

Cancer May Grow Undetected for a Decade or More.

Can you have stage 4 cancer and not know it? ›

Stage 4 Cancer Symptoms

1 In some cases, there are no symptoms at all, so it's possible to have stage 4 cancer and not know it. Most of the time, a cancer that reaches stage 4 affects not only the part of the body where it originated but the areas where it has spread to as well.

What are the symptoms of hidden cancer? ›

In general, they might include:
  • A lump that can be felt through the skin.
  • Pain.
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as new and persistent constipation or diarrhea.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Cough.
  • Fever.
  • Night sweats.
  • Losing weight without trying.
Oct 6, 2022

Does cancer show up in blood work? ›

Most blood tests aren't used on their own to diagnose cancer. But they can provide clues that may lead your health care team to make the diagnosis. For most types of cancer, a procedure to remove a sample of cells for testing is often needed to be sure.

Would I feel sick if I had cancer? ›

Up to 7 out of 10 people (up to 70% of people) with advanced cancer have nausea and vomiting. Some people may have more than one cause of sickness and it may not always be linked to the cancer itself. For example, you might feel sick if you have an infection.

Would I feel ill with cancer? ›

Some people in the advanced stages of cancer may feel or be sick a lot. This type of sickness is very different to that of people having chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It can severely affect your day to day life and make you very tired and depressed.

What is the most undiagnosed cancer? ›

Global cancer incidence: both sexes
  • Breast and lung cancers were the most common cancers worldwide, contributing 12.5% and 12.2% of the total number of new cases diagnosed in 2020.
  • Colorectal cancer was the third most common cancer with 1.9 million new cases in 2020, contributing 10.7% of new cases.

What is the easiest cancer to detect? ›

Skin cancer has a 99.9% 5-year survival rate, and it's not hard to understand why. First, while skin cancer is quite common, it is also very easy to remove surgically. Second, since they are on the surface of the skin, skin cancers are also quite easy to detect, early on in the progression of the cancer.

What is the silent killer cancer? ›

Ovarian cancer has long been called a "silent killer," because symptoms are thought to develop only after the disease has reached an advanced stage and is largely incurable.

Do doctors tell you if they suspect cancer? ›

If you're deemed to be of sound mind, and you ask the question, then yes, they are legally obligated to disclose your medical data to you. That includes what they may or may not be testing you for.

What does cancer fatigue feel like? ›

Here is a list of some symptoms you might have if you have cancer related fatigue: lack of energy – you may just want to stay in bed all day. feeling you just cannot be bothered to do much. sleeping problems such as unable to sleep or disturbed sleep.

What does cancer pain feel like? ›

Cancer pain may be mild, moderate or severe. It may take several forms, such as feeling like a sharp stabbing pain that comes and goes, a tingling or burning sensation or a persistent ache. Cancer pain affects your quality of life. It can make certain cancer symptoms and treatment side effects feel worse.

How far back can cancer be traced? ›

The earliest cancerous growths in humans were found in Egyptian and Peruvian mummies dating back to ∼1500 BC. The oldest scientifically documented case of disseminated cancer was that of a 40- to 50-year-old Scythian king who lived in the steppes of Southern Siberia ∼2,700 years ago.

Can cancer be stopped if found early? ›

Cancer that's diagnosed at an early stage, when it isn't too large and hasn't spread, is more likely to be treated successfully. Spotting cancer at an early stage saves lives, so it is important to tell your doctor as soon as possible if you notice anything that isn't normal for you.

What is considered catching cancer early? ›

Many types of cancer can be detected at an early stage, when they have just started to form and have yet to spread to other parts of the body. Early detection can be critical, because cancer can often be more successfully treated in its initial stages than when it has grown and metastasized.

What are three warning signs of cancer? ›

Signs and symptoms Cancer
  • Coughing, chest pain and breathlessness. Speak to a GP if you've had a cough for 3 weeks or more. ...
  • Changes in bowel habits. ...
  • Bloating. ...
  • Bleeding. ...
  • Lumps. ...
  • Moles. ...
  • Unexplained weight loss. ...
  • Tummy or back pain.

What are the symptoms of Stage 1 cancer? ›

But to be safe, talk to your doctor about these five signs and symptoms.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss. When you lose weight for no reason, call your doctor. ...
  • Fatigue. This isn't fatigue similar to how you feel after a long day of work or play. ...
  • Fever. ...
  • Pain. ...
  • Skin Changes.

Which cancer is not curable? ›

Types of treatable but not curable cancer
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
  • Chronic myeloid leukaemia.
  • Pleural mesothelioma.
  • Secondary brain tumours.
  • Secondary breast cancer.
  • Secondary bone cancer.
  • Secondary liver cancer.
  • Secondary lung cancer.

How do you test for unknown cancer? ›

Tests might include:
  1. Physical exam. Your doctor will carefully examine your body to look for signs of cancer.
  2. Imaging tests. Your doctor might recommend imaging tests to look for signs of the original cancer. ...
  3. Blood tests. ...
  4. Using a scope to examine the inside of the body. ...
  5. Advanced lab testing.
Oct 6, 2022

What blood levels indicate cancer? ›

Here are some of the most common cancers we test for, and their respective markers:
  • Bladder cancer: NMP-22.
  • Breast cancer: CA 15-3/CA 27-29, HER2.
  • Colorectal cancer: CEA, EGFR.
  • Mesothelioma: SMR.
  • Ovarian cancer: CA-125/HE4/ROMA.
  • Pancreatic cancer: CA 19-9.
  • Prostate cancer: PSA.
  • Testicular cancer: AFP.
Feb 28, 2022

Can a CT scan detect cancer? ›

Screening: CT is sometimes used to screen for different types of cancer, such as lung and colorectal cancer. Diagnosis: Your doctor may order a CT scan to locate and size suspected tumors. It also may help determine whether a tumor has recurred.

What blood test shows cancer in lymph nodes? ›

Immunophenotyping. This laboratory test can detect specific cancer cells based on the types of antigens or proteins on the surface of the cells. Immunophenotyping is used to help diagnose specific types of leukemia and lymphoma.

What are red flags for cancer? ›

Lumps or skin thickening on breasts or armpits. Skin changes such as a rash, dimpled skin or skin reddening. Changes to your nipples such as dryness, leaking or inverted nipples.

How can I rule out cancer? ›

Diagnostic procedures for cancer may include imaging, laboratory tests (including tests for tumor markers), tumor biopsy, endoscopic examination, surgery, or genetic testing.

Which is a symptom that is typical people who have cancer? ›

Common cancer symptoms
  • Unexplained ache or pain. Pain can be a way our bodies tell us something is wrong. ...
  • Persistent headache or blurred vision. ...
  • Weakness in limbs and dizziness. ...
  • Abnormal sweating, especially at night. ...
  • Unexplained weight loss. ...
  • Unusual lump or swelling. ...
  • Unusual breast changes. ...
  • Seizures.

What does back pain from cancer feel like? ›

Radicular pain is nerve pain, which occurs when the cancer is pushing on a nerve in the spine. It can feel like an electric shock going down a limb or around the chest. Sciatica is the most well-known type. Radicular pain can be relieved by treating the tumor to stop it from compressing the nerve causing the pain.

What type of cancer causes fatigue? ›

Fatigue may develop as a symptom of blood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma, because these cancers start in the bone marrow, which produces red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.

Does cancer make you thirsty? ›

Dehydration is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can cause dehydration due to other side effects, like fevers, vomiting, diarrhea or excessive urination. These treatments can increase the need for IV hydration due to increased fluid needs.

When is back pain cancer? ›

Types of back pain that could mean cancer

back pain that doesn't seem to be related to movement or doesn't get worse with movement. back pain that usually occurs at night or early in the morning and goes away or gets better during the day. back pain that persists even after physical therapy or other treatments.

Can stress cause cancer? ›

Even when stress appears to be linked to cancer risk, the relationship could be indirect. For example, people under chronic stress may develop certain unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, overeating, becoming less active, or drinking alcohol, that are themselves associated with increased risks of some cancers.

What is the most harmless cancer? ›

What are the most curable cancers? Although there are no curable cancers, melanoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and breast, prostate, testicular, cervical, and thyroid cancer have some of the highest 5-year relative survival rates.

What is the fastest growing cancer? ›

Which Type of Cancer Spreads the Fastest? The fastest-moving cancers are pancreatic, brain, esophageal, liver, and skin. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most dangerous types of cancer because it's fast-moving and there's no method of early detection.

What cancer kills fastest? ›

The Fastest Killing Cancer

If defining "fastest-killing" cancer is based on which cancer has the worst 5-year relative survival rate, then it would be a tie between pancreatic cancer and malignant mesothelioma (a relatively rare cancer in the U.S. with about 3,000 cases a year).

What age is cancer least common? ›

Cancer Cases by Age Groups

The following is the share of diagnoses for all types of cancer in the U.S. by age groups: Under 20: 1% 20-34: 3% 35-44: 5%

Which cancer kills the most? ›

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer — and lung cancer caused by asbestos — is the number one killer, with 131,880 estimated deaths in 2022 alone, making it three times deadlier than breast cancer.

What is the least survivable cancer? ›

Lung & Bronchus

Lung and bronchial cancer causes more deaths in the U.S. than any other type of cancer in both men and women. Although survival rates have increased over the years due to improved treatments, the outlook is still bleak. The five-year survival rate is only 22%.

What is the most painful cancer? ›

Bone cancer is one of the most painful cancers. Factors that drive bone cancer pain evolve and change with disease progression, according to Patrick Mantyh, PhD, symposium speaker and professor of pharmacology, University of Arizona.

What are the six least survivable cancers? ›

The LSCT was set up by a group of charities all aiming to double survival rates of the six less survivable cancers by 2029. These are stomach, oesophageal, pancreatic, liver, brain & lung cancer, with an average five-year survival rate of just 16%.

What are the signs of advanced cancer? ›

  • Advanced cancer can cause troubling physical problems. These usually depend on the type of cancer you have and where it has spread. ...
  • Constipation. Constipation is common in people with advanced cancer. ...
  • Dehydration. ...
  • Giving extra fluids. ...
  • Difficulty breathing. ...
  • Fatigue. ...
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss. ...
  • Mouth problems.

What does advanced cancer feel like? ›

Though it is not always possible to predict how long someone will live, these are the common signs and symptoms that suggest a person with cancer may be entering the final weeks of life: Worsening weakness and exhaustion. A need to sleep much of the time, often spending most of the day in bed or resting.

Can you have metastatic cancer and not know? ›

Metastatic cancer does not always cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, what they are like and how often you have them will depend on the size and location of the metastatic tumors. Some common signs of metastatic cancer include: pain and fractures, when cancer has spread to the bone.

What is the biggest symptom of cancer? ›

Fatigue. Lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin. Weight changes, including unintended loss or gain. Skin changes, such as yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin, sores that won't heal, or changes to existing moles.

What cancers progress quickly? ›

Examples of fast-growing cancers include:
  • acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • certain breast cancers, such as inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)
  • large B-cell lymphoma.
  • lung cancer.
  • rare prostate cancers such as small-cell carcinomas or lymphomas.
Feb 13, 2019

What cancers are hardest to survive? ›

Most Dangerous Cancers Explained. Lung and bronchial cancer causes more deaths in the U.S. than any other type of cancer in both men and women. Although survival rates have increased over the years due to improved treatments, the outlook is still bleak. The five-year survival rate is only 22%.

At what stage of cancer do you feel pain? ›

Pain can be experienced at any stage of the disease. Before diagnosis – cancer can cause pain before a diagnosis and the pain may come and go. In some cases, pain comes from the tumour itself, such as abdominal pain from the tumour pressing on bones, nerves or organs in the body.

What to do when told you have 6 months to live? ›

Here are some suggestions for living your life as if you only had six months left:
  1. Stop caring so much what other people think. ...
  2. Be fearless.
  3. Finish the book you're writing, or the project, or the whatever it is. ...
  4. Tell everyone you love how much you love them. ...
  5. Never feel guilt again.
  6. Stop beating yourself up.
Sep 16, 2020

Do you feel sick with cancer? ›

Up to 7 out of 10 people (up to 70% of people) with advanced cancer have nausea and vomiting. Some people may have more than one cause of sickness and it may not always be linked to the cancer itself. For example, you might feel sick if you have an infection.

Which cancer does not metastasize? ›

On the one hand you have a type of non-melanoma skin cancer called basal cell skin cancer. This is the most common form of skin cancer, but it hardly ever spreads.


1. Cancer, early warning signs
(Dr. John Campbell)
2. 8 Signs You Have Cancer and Don't Know It
3. Early Detection of Esophageal Cancer
(Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University)
4. How To Catch Breast Cancer Early: Stanford Doctors Explain Mammography Options
(Stanford Health Care)
5. Cancer Breakthrough? Blood Test Can Diagnose Cancer In Earliest Stage Or Tell You're Safe For A Year
6. Early Signs of Breast Cancer


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