Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 30, 2024 ·  24 min read

40+ Weird Signs That Lead To a Cancer Diagnosis

A cancer diagnosis is a scary thing. One day your life is going along normally, then suddenly everything changes. The earlier you get diagnosed, the better off you will be. These people share the weirdest signs that tipped them off to visit the doctor. (1)

40+ Weird Signs That Lead To A Cancer Diagnosis

To start, it is not to say that all of these signs that ended up in cancer diagnosis are necessarily symptoms of cancer. These are simply subtle changes people noticed in their bodies that made them decide to go to the doctor. They are their own personal experiences that eventually lead to a cancer diagnosis.

Fooling Around

I was fooling around in a mall as a kid. So My dad grabbed me by the neck to make me behave. He felt a lump on my neck and immediately began to get nervous. We went to the doctor the next day, caught the cancer before it spread and was able to surgically remove it about a month later. Got super lucky.” – @sockfeetlover

Not A Blocked Mammary Gland

My sister noticed a small painful lump in her breast shortly after having her second child. Doctor diagnosed a blocked mammary gland. A couple weeks later it still wasn’t gone. Again doc said blocked gland. Months later it’s still not gone and she insists on getting a second opinion. Stage 3 breast cancer. Double mastectomy immediately followed by months of agonizing radiation and chemo only to find out it’s now stage four. She’s been stable for a few years but now it’s spreading again and we don’t know how long we have with her. Trying to be as positive as possible.” – @kidgorgeous19

The Headache That Wouldn’t Go Away

My 33 year old husband was diagnosed with inoperable glioblastoma (most aggressive brain cancer) in January 2019, when he was 31. What caused him to get a check, was persistent headache that didn’t go away with paracetamols and sleep. We discovered the tumours after taking an MRI.” – @syarkbait

Not Fat and Not Allergies

My head and neck area became very swollen. At first I thought I was just getting fat, so I worked out a lot and ate better. This did not help. I also went to a local clinic and they thought it might be an allergic reaction and gave me steroids, which also didn’t help. The thing that finally made me go to the emergency room and not leave until I had an answer is that I started to develop unexplained bruises on my chest. Turns out I had a huge tumor in my chest which had grown around my heart and was compressing the superior vena cava so blood couldn’t flow back down from my head. Not great!” -@eskimopsy212

An Unrelated Lump

“Funnily enough, it was a totally unrelated lump. “Nope, that lump is fine, just a lipoma. However, we found another lump in the corner of your x-ray and we need to biopsy it”.” -@something_crass

The Not-So-Subtle Stroke

My mum had something pretty close to this. Had a stroke, so lots of scans, one of them just caught the edge of something. Tennis ball sized mass in her chest. Whack. Turned out it wasn’t anything particularly nasty but it seemed crazy she never knew it was there.” -@mediumbeansprout

Abnormally Heavy Periods

Super heavy periods that would last for 10 or more days. Got an iud to help control bleeding. Actually hemorrhaged so bad the iud came out. Endometrial Cancer, huge tumor in my uterus. Ladies, it’s not normal to need a tampon and pad at the same time. It’s not normal to need to change them every 10 minutes or even every hour. An average period is 2-3 Tablespoons, just for reference. Sorry if TMI.” -@Icewaterforall

This Is Crazy

On Christmas Eve 2018, my Dad lost the ability to talk except for the phrase “this is crazy.” Called paramedics because we thought he’d had a stroke. Got him to the hospital where the imaging showed a brain tumor on the outside edge of his brain. The swelling caused him to have a seizure. He was transferred to a bigger local hospital. They did full body scans because it’s pretty rare to just have brain cancer- usually it’s a secondary for another cancer site. We got lucky in that it was the sole spot. Went through a craniotomy and 5 rounds of high dose inpatient chemo, and he’s one year in remission!” -@ashliek

My Cat Found My Cancer

“My cat has always like to lay on me and “knead” part of my body with her paws. For 7 years it was random, various parts of my body. Then for about 6 months she started to focus on one spot on my chest. At first I chalked it up to her wanting to be closer to my face, but after a couple months I noticed that the spot she was focused on had become very tender. Then I felt a small lump in that spot. Due to my (relatively young age), it took me a couple of months to convince one of my doctors that it was a potential issue, but eventually I got tested and had a pretty giant tumor in that spot (plus other tumors elsewhere).” -@plum_awe

Sternum Pain

I had a persistent pain in the middle of my sternum. Doctors thought it was costochondritis (essentially just inflammation of a joint). I stopped working out and lifting heavy things for 3 months but it didn’t go away. Eventually I started having night sweats and random aches. After I fractured my hip, I got an MRI and biopsy and they diagnosed me with stage IV non Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I got chemo and I’ve been in remission for 5 years.” -@thedancingwireless

Lost Voice

“My Dad had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It started as a tickle in his throat, and then he lost his voice. As in he could not talk beyond the strength of a whisper. He chalked it up to a bad throat cold. Queue 5 weeks later, and we finally got him to go to the hospital. Stubborn S.O.B that he was…Huge tumor put pressure on his vocal cords which caused him to lose his voice and have difficulties swallowing. He went for chemotherapy, made it through and was in remission for 7 years before it came back. Then chemotherapy and radiation again. Then it came back in his pancreas where he had abdominal pain and other difficulties but did not tell us.” -@velvetroses

Persistent Cough

My sister had stage IV non Hodgkins at 21 years old and her only symptom was a persistent cough. Doctors kept telling her it was pneumonia or bronchitis and giving her cough syrup and antibiotics. Six months after the cough started, my mum convinced her to go to a walk in and demand a chest x-ray. She was admitted to the Cancer centre in out city the next day for intense chemo. She had to be in the ICU while it was administered because the tumor was pushing on the tissue around her heart and they worried she would bleed out as the tumor shrunk. It’ll be twenty years next February and she has been cancer free ever since. Married, has three kids, and you’d never know she was sick. She was super lucky, but now I’m paranoid every time I get a cough.” -@Cdnteacher92

Acting Funny

“My dad was acting strange. He looked disheveled somewhat and was telling the same stories. Well he’s 86, that can come with age. But he was also swerving on the road driving and he called me one day to take him to his doctor. Long story short, stage 4 GBM; brain cancer. Had surgery, was ok for a couple of months but was gone a couple months after that. Good part was, had had no pain and didn’t suffer.” -@turkourjurbs

The Flu

My dad thought he had the flu & went to urgent care, by the end of the weekend he had started chemotherapy. He had acute myeloid leukemia, made it 6 years though so not bad” -@DueOstrich

Rapid Weightloss

“My mom had chronic Myeloid Leukemia and her only symptom was losing weight really fast and she was excited because she thought her diets were working. They only caught it bc of routine blood work. She fought 6 months and passed this April.” -@cmcindoe130

The Blind Spot

“I was 17, getting ready for spring break back in 2010. Was making plans with my boyfriend on the phone because we were going to take his brothers to the zoo in a different city.
Literally in seconds there’s this big translucent blind spot in my eye that is orange. I can see dark shapes behind it but it’s super blurry.
I figured I would just go to the eye doctor before I left the next day, but my sister (who actually works for the cancer center in my city) told me that I should go to the hospital because anything weird with your vision can be super serious.
After 36 hours of Emergency waits, driving to specialists, they finally admitted me to the eye ward for a bacterial infection. Then they took my blood for a routine blood test.
Within an hour or so (as I was getting ready to sleep) a doctor and nurse come in. The nurse has a box of tissues. The doctor told me my “blood is leukemic” to which I asked “okay, can I treat that?” He was extremely unclear on what was happening, I was 17, my family had already left, and I had no idea about any cancers.
I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and started chemo that night after being transfered to a different hospital. They did a bone marrow biopsy the next morning and then sent it to a genetic lab in another province. When the test results came back they changed my diagnosis to Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in the Blast Phase Crisis (final stage) that was caused by the Philadelphia Chromosome – where chromosomes 9 and 22 switch places and causes a mutation in my red blood cells. Told me I was the youngest person in the world with it, as CML usually takes a very long time to progress and the final stage doesn’t show until around 65 years of age. That change in diagnosis changed my timeline. They had originally said 6 months to a year untreated, but now it was 1-3 months if I didn’t get a stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant.
All this because I had blood clots happening all over my body because of the abnormalities of my red blood cell shapes – and the one in my eye presented itself in my vision since the vessels are so small.
” -@2468timetoinebriate


Seizures. I got seizures out of nowhere during the night. No history of seizures in my family. Got my head screened and they found what they thought to be a benign tumor. Anaplastic Astrocytoma, diagnosed two months before my 22nd birthday.” -@Gigginold

His Body Just Wasn’t Working Right

My brother was 11 when he started experiencing symptoms. He started losing a lot of weight, and when he was playing soccer it looked like he was running through mud and couldn’t keep up with everyone else. My parents took him to the pediatrician and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. One day, he woke up and couldn’t stop throwing up. When he tried to run to the bathroom, he kept running into the door frame and couldn’t walk straight. He said the lights were giving him a headache. We took him to the emergency room and they found that he had a brain tumor, and had emergency brain surgery the next day. We were extremely lucky that they decided to do a CAT scan at the ER, apparently they don’t usually do them on kids. Two brain surgeries and a year and a half of chemo later, and he is in remission now!” -@malsteve

It Just Felt Different

Testicular Cancer survivor here. I had a dull pain one day in my right testicle. Didn’t think much of it. I then took a shower and my ball felt different, it wasn’t smooth. I just felt that something was different. I went to my doctor and asked him to check them to make sure things were normal. He did the check and didn’t think things felt off but ordered an ultrasound anyway. I went and did the ultrasound, and I didn’t hear what they found. They just asked me to go back for another ultrasound. The next day I got told I had to go to the hospital to see the urologist. Within minutes of meeting the doctor, he told me I had testicular cancer and was having surgery that night. It happened so fast. I caught mine early. Now I tell everyone to feel your balls and know your normal.” -@TheWorldEndsTonight

A Pop In The Back

I felt a pop in my back. It was actually a vertebra breaking. I had severe pain after, and was later diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. That was five years ago, and today I am in remission.” -@International37

Blood In The Urine

“Last year (March 2019) I (male, 35) woke up in the morning to go to the toilet. I was urinating pure, thick blood with little lumps in it. So after a severe panic attack it began to hurt like hell. I was throwing up from the pain. After a day in the hospital en some scans en tests later, they told me to call my parents. So you know you’re getting some bad news. It turns out it was kidney cancer. They removed my right kidney, fortunately no other treatments were needed, and I’m living the best life right now. If the tumor in my kidney didn’t start to bleed I would have found out much much later, probably too late.” –@actuallyguy

A Gray Spot

“I was about 12 and I noticed a gray spot in my left eye so I went to the eye doctor it turned out to be retinoblastoma. And fastfoward about 1 week I had my eye removed and started chemo. And now have a glass eye that has to get redone every 2 years until I was 16”  -@spot9707

The Extra Lump

“I was in a drum line in middle school and we used to do this thing with the drum sticks to sting one and other. This kid got me real good on my shoulder blade, and it caused an irritated growth. Doctor told us that it wouldn’t go away on its own and would have to be removed. While in surgery to have it biopsied, my mom pointed out another bump on my back, and asked the surgeon if it was the same thing, he replied no, and that it was fine. My mom insisted, asking him to remove it just incase so we wouldn’t have to come back and he did. The second biopsy got infected and I had to go on antibiotics, unknown at the time, the antibiotic prescribed to me I was allergic to which did not have a good result. Got a call back for a results appointment that just happened to be on my 14th birthday. The surgeon never looked at me or said happy birthday, he just read the results and said sorry before leaving, it was scale 4 malignant melanoma.” -@Woodenjoe92

Diarrhea and Dehydration

My Nana. She had very loose bowel movements, which had caused her to get dehydrated. Her levels for electrolytes were way out of normal range. She later found out that she had a cancerous mass on her ovaries. They caught it in time and she went through surgery and chemotherapy. Everything is fine now.” – Reddit

Knee Pain

“I had childhood leukemia. When I was about 10 both of my knees started to hurt progressively more and more to the point where I was limping around. I also couldn’t catch my breath. I remember this one lunch lady at school giving me s**t for “being slow” walking up some stairs and I just didn’t know what to tell her because I couldn’t go any faster. I went to the doctor once and they said I sprained my knees (I played soccer so it wasn’t impossible). But they never got better. So I went back and they decided to take some blood tests just in case. Thankfully they did because it turns out my red blood cells were 1/3 what they were supposed to be, hence why I couldn’t heal and I couldn’t get enough oxygen, ever.” -@Original_Redman

The Put-Off Mammogram

“I was diagnosed at 43. For two years my gynecologist insisted that I get a mammogram as part of turning 40. I am very small chested so I thought it was a complete waste of time. In February 2013 I promised my doctor that I would get a mammogram before my next annual appointment. I was diagnosed in February 2014. Stage 2 breast cancer. There was absolutely no signs or indication. No family history. All the way up to the pathology results from the biopsy, I thought it was all a complete waste of time and money. The results came back positive.” –@Austnrock

Burning Sensation

“I have to go on Tuesday and get checked out. Breast cancer runs in my family (dad’s mom had it). About two-and-a-half weeks ago, I noticed a burning sensation on the underside of my breast. Last week, I noticed a small (about the size of the pad of my thumb), hard lump…among other things.” -@qwasmymoto

Sudden Large Lump

“My dad went to the ER after a big bump had formed on his neck overnight. He was prescribed sever rash medication but went back after nothing had worked. Everyone, even the doctors thought it had been an allergic reaction or some kind of rash but after testing for other causes, they found that he had had hodgkins lymphoma and a six inch mass in his chest. It has be over a year, he has finished treatment, and the cancer shows no sign of returning.” -@FireyEcho

Double Vision

“Well, I have a benign brain tumour which was diagnosed due to double vision and really bad headaches. I also have had a mild hand tremor for ages. I had radiotherapy 11 years ago and now I have been diagnosed with a low grade parotid cancer which is a lump on my neck. Soon going to be having radiotherapy for that.” -@kishenoy

Dry Skin Patch

Dry patch of skin on my forehead wouldn’t stop scabbing and then bleeding. Decided that was because I couldn’t stop picking it. Ignored it for 5 years because I’m 1) That afraid of doctors and 2) That incredibly stupid. Decided to leave it alone for ten days and let it heal. It didn’t. Finally got sick of worrying about it being basal cell carcinoma and went and got diagnosed. Basal cell carcinoma. It was dealt with pretty easily but don’t be like me.” -@beaupepys

Forgetting Words

“Brother started forgetting words even while looking at object, could not say them. Could write them or even describe all parts of object but not name like shoe laces. Soon lost peripheral vision even before he could get to his primary doctor. All that within just 3 weeks. Diagnosed with glioblastoma in February and died in June.” -@goddessgaga


“My self diagnosed IBS was actually a tumor and it hemorrhaged. Stage 4 Rectal cancer. I beat that but it is in my liver now too big to operate. I am living my best life while I can!” -@FlamingoRock

Nipple Pulling In

My dad had a nipple pulling [inverted nipples] in that he knew about for “several months” before mentioning to anyone. He now thinks it may have been a year before he actually mentioned it to my mom, who demanded he see a doctor about it immediately. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. After chemo, a double mastectomy, and radiation, he is in remission.” -@Bagarang_1

Small Amount Of Blood In The Stool

I went to my GP for blood in my stool but they didn’t give me any examine and presumed it was a fissure (butt tear from straining), I also had side pain and again wasn’t looked into and I had fatigue.
Doctors again didn’t investigate they told me as I’m young (27) and I didn’t have a family history that it wasn’t a problem. One day I was at work, I had agony in my abdomen my manager said I was pale. Went A&E, was kept in overnight and turned out I have a very rare stage IV bowel cancer which has spread to elsewhere in my body.
Got my diagnosis a week later and was on the operating table to remove a large part of my colon the following Monday. Now on chemotherapy and tried to complain about my GP and they removed my review from their website (NHS choices).”

Blood During Sex

Cervix cancer. A couple of times during sex blood would just randomly pour out of me. Nowhere near my time of month and no pain. Turns out that is one of the warning signs. Three surgeries later I have had my cervix (the mouth og the uterus) removed completely, bit by bit. They tried taking only what they had to, as lack of a cervix makes impregnation and carrying to term harder, but it kept reappearing. I Hope it’s done now.” -@TheDanishThede

Horrific Stomach Pain

“Unbearable stomach pain in the middle of the night at 32. 24 hours later a 15cm cyst was found in my right ovary 6 weeks later I was told it was ovarian cancer 20 days later I had a complete hysterectomy I’m 34, in menopause, cured and very lucky. Thank you NHS.” -@RollerDerbyWhore

A Runny Nose

My father always had allergies. But the severity of his runny nose reached a point where he went from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was going on. It wasn’t until the 7th doctor when he was finally referred for a spinal tap procedure to determine if his runny nose was actually a CSF leakage.
Night after the procedure, we almost lost him. He had developed meningitis. Spent several days in the hospital. They didnt know if it was viral or bacterial. Some days they made us wear a full cover-up while others we could hold on to him without a face mask even. He recovered and now we wait for his results.
Turns out it was a CSF leakage. The surgery to fix that was scheduled right away. He had the surgery and my mother and I waited to be called to see him. While he was still out, the doctor came to my mother and I and told us she found something near his pituitary gland. A small growth. She said she scraped some off and sent it to the lab. When those results came back, we found out he had chordoma, a type of brain cancer.” –

Constantly Tired

I was 8 when I got Leukaemia (21 now), the first unusual thing was that I was constantly tired. I’d just come home and lie down on the couch and wouldn’t have energy for anything. My mom was just alarmed as I was a lively child but she first brushed it off as school and autumn moods exhausting me.
And then I started getting red spots on my skin. Not breakouts, just red dots appearing right under my skin.
First on my face, then on my neck, eventually they spread down to my chest. It happened within days and thankfully my mom called my grandmother, who’s a cardiologist, and who ordered my parents to take me to a doctor.
Other doctors could’ve said it was a skin allergy breakout (I suffered from skin allergies before that) but this one noticed the signs, ordered extensive blood tests and then got me transferred to the haematology hospital within an hour.
” -@constantly_exhausted

A Non-Painful Lump

“I turned my head and noticed a giant lump on my neck in the mirror. It didn’t hurt at all, and I hadn’t noticed it before. I went to my doctor the next day and BAM! Lymphoma. That was 6 years ago, so now I’m officially considered cured.” -@whatwouldbuddhado

Lower Back Pain

My brother, age 24, had a pain in his lower back so went to the chiropractor. Didn’t help so he went to a real doctor. “Cancerous tumor is blocking the spinal cord, you have less than a year to live.”
Anyway, my brother lived three years more but the last one was in bed.
” – Reddit

Long-term Digestive Problems

I am currently fighting stage IV rectal cancer that spread to my liver. I am a late 50’s male that was too stupid and arrogant to go get checked or have a colonoscopy when the doctors said I should. I thought I knew my body better than they did. That naive attitude will probably end up costing me my life. My family is what forced me to finally act, but unfortunately, too late.
I have had digestive problems my entire life. Born with a faulty pyloric valve. Lousy eating habits, bad choices, lack of caring, have finally caught up with me. Everything has a price and the bill eventually comes due. I am paying now.
Three years ago, in addition to my normal struggles, I started seeing red blood on the toilet paper when I went to the bathroom. Not all the time so I kind of ignored it. It eventually started happening more often. I did not tell anyone or go to a doctor. I just ignored it. My family kept pushing me to get it checked. I finally relented.
” -@comfortably_numbly

Thrown-Out Back

Had a friend who pulled her back, did it camping. She just couldn’t pinpoint exactly how or when. She dealt with it for a month and finally after Thanksgiving decided to go to the doctor to see if they could help.
Pancreatic cancer, she passed away 45 days later.
Fast forward 10 years, my sisters boyfriend pulled his back. He did pool and pest control work so he figured he just lifted wrong. After a few weeks I reminded my sister of our friend and pancreatic cancer. She finally convinced him to go get it looked at.
He passed away a little less than 3 months later.”

Boredom Scan

I have a good friend, who is a medical student. During corona-lockdown she decides to stay with her parents.
She gets bored. Her dad is the head physician at the department of internal medicine at a small german hospital. So she convinces her father to take her to the hospital and let her practice some ultrasound scans. Her mom accompanies them from boredom.
During the practice she scans her mother’s adomen. bam. There is a small shade, where no shade should be. She shows the appearance to her father, who first pulls of some jokes about her beeing silly and then suddenly becomes very calm.

Fast forwart two weeks – her mother had a part of her pancreas removed, it turned out that the tissue was a precursor of a tumor. She´s fine. No further treatment needed.” -@xelod

Sensation Of A Tight Band Around The Stomach

“Funny enough, my mom was camping for her birthday and had a intensely painful sensation of a band tightening around her midsection. Got worse when she ate. They left the National forest and came home it was so bad. That Monday went in to Drs. Voila, pancreatic cancer and passed away 5.5 months later. What a s****y disease. I still miss her every day, but I do feel she helped me somehow get through my own cancer treatment years later. Her upbeat stoicism in the face of certain death and suffering was something to behold. Guess the takeaway here is, don’t go camping.” -@harrySUblime

Felt “High” All The Time

“This might sound really really strange, but I felt “high” all the time. Like I was detached from reality. Hard to put into words. Went in, found a tumor, hodgkins & non-hodgkins at the same time.” -@MerchRxn

Strange Discharge

She [user’s best friend] was around 35, and her discharge all of a sudden became overwhelming. Like, waaaay more than her normal, having to wear pads or liners outside of her period. I’m not sure if it also changed in any other way, but it was easily a big enough change for her to notice and be concerned and ask her gyn. The gyn told her it was hormonal changes due to approaching menopause. No big deal, nothing to worry about, everyone goes through this, stop being a hypochondriac.
She wasn’t very happy with this gyn anyway, so when she thought she was pregnant, she scheduled an appointment with a different ob/gyn that was recommended to her. She ended up starting her period a couple days before the appt, but decided to keep the appointment. The new doc found a large mass during her pelvic exam, and was furious when he found out she’d experienced these symptoms for several months and the other doctor had completely disregarded them. It’s a common, known ovarian cancer symptom.
Stage 3 agressive ovarian cancer. She had surgery to remove the offending ovary, then about 6 months of intense chemo. She just recently had a hysterectomy, after her miracle babies she never thought she’d conceive after this whole ordeal were born.
” -@klaudea17

Severe Side Pain

“Severe pain. I was 12 years old and woke up screaming and crying from the pain. Swiftly passed out right after. It felt like a knife had stabbed into my side and was just twisting over and over again. I had already had cancer once before so my family took me to get an MRI right after I went to school, and they saw a stomach tumor and immediately had me go to the hospital to have it surgically removed.” -@monie_25

Strange, Gradual Symptoms

Most of the patients I’ve seen had some weird gradual symptom(s) onset that they either ignored or just assumed was normal (or at least their “normal”). Fatigue despite not changing much in their life. Weight loss that was attributed to “I’m never really hungry anyways“. Weird headaches. Changing bowel habits (pencil-thin stool, blood in stool, etc).
Moral of the story is don’t ignore chronic symptoms, please see your doc.” -@DrSwol

No Symptoms At All

“Nothing. I got my first routine mammogram because I was 42. I had zero signs.
The mammogram caught the very early stages of an aggressive breast cancer caused by the ATM gene which is common to people of Norwegian ancestry. I have a tiny sliver of Norwegian. No family history of cancer, breast or otherwise, except the occasional skin damage-sort.
If I’d gotten the mammogram two weeks earlier, nothing would have been visible. I’d have waited until next year’s mammogram which would have revealed a metastasized, likely fatal breast cancer.” – Reddit

The Moral Of The Story

All of these stories are reminders that if something is somewhat unusual with your body, go get it checked. Don’t skip your regular check-ups either. It could be nothing, but it could also be a cancer diagnosis. Be your own advocate and take care of your health.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice (i.e. cancer diagnosis), diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.


  1. “[Serious] People of reddit who have gone through or are going through cancer, what was the first sign that made you go to the doctor?” Reddit. July 26, 2020.