How Did You Discover You Had Cancer?


No two cancer diagnoses are alike. You may learn of your diagnosis after a routine screening or exam, after months or years of coping with undiagnosed symptoms, or even after just feeling like something is off. We asked our Facebook followers to share the first signs or symptoms they experienced before being receiving their cancer diagnosis. Check out a few of their responses below and view them all here.

Please keep in mind that these are individual stories and may not reflect typical symptoms, recommendations or treatment paths.

  • Pressure in my abdomen. Very bad cramps, bleeding and pain for approximately 3 weeks. Thought it was perimenopause. Finally went to a doctor. Transvaginal ultrasound found first stage ovarian cancer. That doctor who sent me for the ultrasound saved my life. –Joanne
  • A very mild cough. Thought it was allergies or a cold, but xray showed a lung lesion. Never smoked! Immediately went to Roswell and am undergoing treatment. –Felecia
  • Lump found in breast. Aggressive form of breast cancer at age 35. Being in tune to my body saved my life. Self-breast exams are extremely important. –Amy
  • A good friend whom I reconnected with looked at a mole on my knee and said, “that mole wasn’t there 2 years ago.” I realized how much it had grown and changed. Not a few days later did it start bleeding when I dried it after showering. I got it checked out that week. –Alicia
  • I had a sore throat and was tired, but chalked that up to a normal cold until my tonsils were huge and the veins were bulging out of them. I thought for sure I had measels or something but it was AML (at 22!). In retrospect I had so many more symptoms I didn't put together—large bruises, bleeding gums, irregular periods, all of which I individually explained away as being an overworked grad student. I listen to my body much more carefully now almost 8 years after transplant. –AnnaLynn
  • I had uncontrollable nose bleeds! It still took several different doctor and hospital visits to be diagnosed as having multiple myeloma. –Ronald
  • I've been diagnosed with stage 2 thyroid cancer. I really didn't feel anything out of the ordinary and this is exactly why I encourage getting routine check-ups. I've avoided them for years. –Montaha
  • Not me but my baby ... one morning he started crying an odd cry I've never heard before from him. I called 911 because of this cry. By the time they arrived (it was quite quick) he became extremely pale and limp. Stage 3 clear cell sarcoma of the kidney at just 4.5 months old. (I'll add ... our little warrior is currently 18 months old and in remission.) –Danielle

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  • A nagging feeling that the cough just wasn't right led me to a lung cancer screening, which confirmed lung cancer. It wasn't anything big or special, but when RPCCC offered the screening I thought, "What the heck, might as well check it out." The offered screenings are important as that is how a friend found he had cancer, too. –Lauri-Anne
  • My husband did not have any symptoms. One day he was scratching his beard on his neck (just behind left earlobe) and felt a lump. Very rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Stage 1 but had to be treated as stage 4. He is in remission. –Brenda
  • At 34 years old, my right breast was larger than my left. I thought it was just due to uneven breastfeeding by my 10-month-old. It turned out to be stage IIB invasive ductal cancer. After double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, I’m now cancer free. –Emily
  • In the middle of training/workouts, I seemed to lose all my energy. Started getting pains in my lower back that were not associated with any muscle strains. Just overall started feeling completely different. Renal cell carcinoma/kidney cancer. It will be 5 years in May, been all clear and feeling great!! Thanks to my doctors!! –Robb
  • A swollen lymph node right above my left clavicle. I had an itch, scratched it, then realized that spot shouldn’t be swollen or warm to the touch. After talking to my sister (an RN) we had an appointment at Roswell before the Nurse Practitioner would confirm Hodgkin lymphoma. I am 11 years free of 2a Hodgkin lymphoma because of Roswell. –Kimberly
  • I had no symptoms, I felt great, I had places to go and things to do. I had breast cancer. Get your mammograms, they can and will save your life. –Sharon

See all the responses

Check out Roswell Park's Facebook post to see how our followers discovered they had cancer.

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Thank you to everyone who submitted responses and shared your story! If you are someone experiencing concerning symptoms, please make an appointment with your physician or call 1-800-ROSWELL. Even after treatment ends, life as a cancer survivor can come with its own challenges, so we encourage you to make an appointment with our Survivorship Center to help you adjust to your new normal.