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Although there are more than 200 different cancer types and various potential warning signs for each – there is one symptom that is shared by many different types. Sudden and unexplained weight loss may be a warning sign of cancer, and is often one of the very first signs of the disease.

Dr. Richard Levine, Medical Director at Moffitt Cancer Center at International Plaza.

According to Dr. Richard Levine, medical director at Moffitt Cancer Center at International Plaza, weight loss of more than 5 percent over a six to 12 month period may be cause for concern if you’re not actively dieting or otherwise trying to lose weight.

“In studies that examined the causes of unintentional weight loss, 5 to 37 percent of patients were eventually diagnosed with cancer,” he says. “But it is not always indicative of cancer, and there are many other causes.”

Dr. Levine says gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease or colitis can disrupt normal digestion and may also lead to unexplained weight loss.

Regardless, anyone experiencing this type of weight loss should see their primary care physician immediately for evaluation.

Other red flags that could be potential signs of cancer include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Change in Bowel Habits
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Unexplained pain that doesn’t go away
  • Blood in the stool or urine
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood
  • Night sweats or unexplained fevers
  • Skin changes such as changes in a mole
  • Breast lumps, changes, or nipple discharge
  • Swollen lymph nodes that don’t go away

While these certainly are not the only ways your body may respond to cancer, they are symptoms to be extra cautious about. If you experience unexplained weight loss or other unusual symptoms, such as those listed above, be sure to mention them to your doctor.