Cancer Survivors Are Sharing The Weird Symptom That Made Them Go "Hm, Something Isn't Right Here," And Now I Am Terrified I Have Cancer

Cancer Survivors Are Sharing The Weird Symptom That Made Them Go "Hm, Something Isn't Right Here," And Now I Am Terrified I Have Cancer

Recently, we wrote about early cancer symptoms, and users from the BuzzFeed Community chimed in with their own experiences. Here are 39 more stories of how people first realized something was wrong.*

*Along with some examples from the original Reddit thread.

1."When I was eight, I'd start getting this God-awful pain under my ribs. It would hit suddenly, and it felt like the chest-bursting scene in Alien. I just got awful pressure and pain that lasted for a couple of hours and made me wish I was dead. For years, I was told it was 'growing pains,' until 14 years later, I got admitted to the hospital when, 24 hours later, the pain wouldn't go away. Turns out it was pancreatitis. I got a scope done to try and find the cause, and I had polyps everywhere, which wasn't normal. So they went up the other end and found hundreds of polyps in various sizes and stages of mutation. I had FAP, which causes colon cancer in 99% of carriers."

"Found mine just in time as I hit stage 1, and I had my entire colon removed. I also now routinely get the polyps removed from my pancreas so the pancreatitis doesn't come back. I'm just lucky FAP doesn't really start to hit until adulthood, or I would have been screwed."


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2."My healthy and fit husband dropped his water bottle at kickboxing one day, then had a twitching thumb and lip for the next month. His doctor told him he had carpal tunnel syndrome. Five months later, he was dead from glioblastoma brain cancer. The twitching in his thumb, lip, and then eyelid were his only symptoms."


3."My dad woke up one morning and simply had trouble breathing — enough that he knew it was worse than a cold, and decided he was calling out sick from work to go to the hospital and have it checked out. The doctors initially weren't certain as to what was causing it and assumed it was possibly tuberculosis, so he was placed in isolation. When my mom brought my sister and me to visit him, we had to gear up in full PPE and talk to him on the other side of a window — we couldn't enter the room, even in the PPE."

"The next day, they confirmed it was not tuberculosis, and he was not contagious, but they still weren't sure what it was, so they sent him to the outpatient center. After about a day there, they had the diagnosis: lung cancer that had been spreading already for *10 years* by that point. They started up the chemo right away in an attempt to fight it, but it was too far, and within three months of receiving his diagnosis, he passed away."


4."Over the course of a morning, I went blind. I was diagnosed with retinal detachment in both eyes, so I was put on bed rest because there was fluid buildup behind my eyes causing the detachment."

"After a couple weeks, I had a pain in my collarbone and a migraine. I wrote the pain off as just muscle aches because I was literally sleeping for days at a time (can't watch too much TV when you can't see), but my mom said, 'Three strikes — hospital time.'

It was Acute Lymphoblastileukemiaia. The fluid buildup was because my immune system was so messed up. This was 12 years ago, and now I'm 'all better,' i.e., no cancer after many rounds of chemo, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant. But I've had a lot of after effects: catching every cold around, new allergies, anxiety, PTSD, cataracts, poor metabolism (yay, prednisone!), and generally feeling like a 900-year-old most of the time."


Two diagrams of an eye: the left shows a normal eye, and the right shows an eye with retinal detachment indicated by an arrow
Albina Lavrentyeva / Getty Images

5."My husband woke up with an erection that wouldn't go away, so he went to the ER — it turned out he had leukemia. His white blood cell count was so high that his blood was so thick it couldn't flow back out. The doctors were surprised that his heart could even pump the blood because of how thick it was."


6."I had a solid left nut. There was no sensation in it. My doctor misdiagnosed it. I got him to write me a referral for a scan and paid for it. It was cancer. If you are nervous about what it could be, make sure your doctor does the diagnostics to prove that it is or isn't. Don't go on their opinion alone."


A person wearing jeans and a gray polo shirt sits on a bed holding their lower abdomen, appearing to be in discomfort. No names provided
Towfiqu Ahamed / Getty Images

7."I didn't have any symptoms — I just randomly had a seizure one day after work. It turns out I had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball. Surgery, chemo, and radiotherapy beat it when I was 21. I have to have regular MRI scans now, which is good as it came back again after ten years. More surgery and chemo beat it again, thankfully, but now I have to be on epilepsy meds for life."


8."I didn't have any symptoms. I just had a spooky dream that I couldn't shake. It sounds weird, but it's the truth. My mom passed away in March of 2020 from cervical cancer. We found a diary of hers where she wrote in 2017, 'I think I have cancer,' but never went to the doctor to get it checked out because she was scared. Jump ahead a year, and in October of 2021, I dreamt that she came into my living room and sat on my couch. She had this large purple dot on the right side of her neck, and I said, 'Mom, what is that on your neck?' And she looked at me and said, "Don't be like me. Go to the doctor and ask. It means death if you don't." I woke up right afterward. It was a weird dream, but I tried just to dismiss it. Something about it, though, kept nagging at me."

"So in February 2022, I finally decided that I needed to get checked up anyway and made an appointment with my doctor for the first checkup I'd had in years.

All of my blood came back normal. My urine was fine, too. The only things the doctor worried about were my blood pressure and weight, which were a little higher than she liked, and she asked me to make some lifestyle changes. The appointment was wrapping up when she said, 'Well, let me just do a quick physical to say we've been thorough.' When she felt my neck checking for lymph nodes, I saw her face change, and she said, 'You have a nodule on your thyroid. It's probably benign, most of them are, but I'm going to refer you to endocrinology just in case.'

To make an already long story shorter, it was not benign. I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer in April of 2022 and had a full Thyroidectomy in May 2022, where they removed a 3.7cm tumor from my neck — I have been fine ever since, with no sign of cancer in the last two years. I'll have to have regular checkups for the rest of my life, though. Because PTC grows slowly, the endocrinologist said I could have had it for ten years or more. Now, according to him, I'm more likely to die from something else than I am from this cancer.

Now, I don't necessarily believe in paranormal stuff, but I don't not believe in it either. So, did my mom come back in a dream to warn me about my tumor? Did my body manifest the dream as a way to let me know about the tumor because I somehow knew about it subconsciously? Was it all just a coincidence? I don't know, but I'm glad I listened to that dream either way."


Bob and Linda from Bob's Burgers are sitting in bed, looking at each other with concerned expressions

9."From my own personal experience: I started to get fluttering sensations in my neck in early 2019 that I thought were due to anxiety. They would come and go, and I thought nothing of them. At one point, I could not ignore them anymore. I saw my doctor's resident, and that same week, I had an ultrasound. A biopsy followed not long after. I was eventually diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma, which was caught very early. In July 2019, I had the right side of my thyroid removed. Thankfully, the nodules on the left side have gone away. Moral of the story: If your butterfly gland feels like a butterfly trying to escape, GET IT CHECKED!"


10."My husband had a hearing loss for one year. He would get his ears cleaned, but it didn't help. It turned out it was stage IV nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and he passed away five months later."


11."I had colon cancer when I was 17. Doctors think it started forming when I was 14. I was always constipated. It took my pediatrician three years of my complaining and her recommending Miralax to order a colonoscopy, where they found the cancer. My entire large intestine was removed, and a genetic condition was found in me and a bunch of my family members. Look up Lynch syndrome if your family has a history of cancer."


Medical illustration explaining Lynch Syndrome inheritance patterns, showing affected and unaffected family members, with focus on colon cancer without polyps
Medicalstocks / Getty Images

12."I have worn contacts for over 40 years, so when I couldn't wear them longer than four hours a day, I went to my eye doctor. She told me it was just dry eye from menopause and that I shouldn't worry. I got a second opinion, and I had skin cancer in my lower eyelid (basal cell carcinoma)."

"Three surgeries, no eyelashes, and a skin graft from my ear later, I (HOPE) I'm cancer-free. GET SECOND OPINIONS!"


13."I had an ugly mole on my back that I'd always wanted removed. I never noticed any significant changes to it, and a doctor who checked it years ago wasn't worried about it either. Last year, it all of a sudden started bothering me. I couldn't stop thinking about it, and everywhere I looked, I saw advertisements for getting your skin/moles checked. I had it looked at and got it removed a couple of weeks later. The doctor called me a few days later, telling me it was stage 1 melanoma."

"If I had left it another year, things would be a lot different right now. Don't ignore the signs, and don't put off getting skin checks! I have them done every six months now."


14."Just before my 16th birthday, I finally told my parents about this new muscle I'd noticed near my throat. I was dancing 6-7 hours a day at the high school in my county. ... I thought I'd developed some massive neck muscle and didn't say a thing for a few weeks. It turned out that night sweats, fatigue, and a very high SED rate in my bloodwork meant I had Hodgkin lymphoma 2B."

"When they did the scan at the hospital the same day the PCP said to go, there was also a tumor in my chest. The day I turned 16, I had three surgeries and started chemo a few days later. I relapsed a year later and needed more chemo after radiation and then a stem cell transplant with my own cells. High school sucked, and as an adult, I am forever grateful my doctor listened; I've been cancer-free for almost 20 years now. As an adult survivor, doctors don't take me seriously because I know my medical history and can explain why a woman in her 30s has a cardiologist and a hematologist. I recently started hip reconstructive surgery because my current PCP thought my bone pain and hip pain from running was because I 'got older and put on weight.' I had a good friend who had some hip surgeries and told me to see her orthopedic. It turns out it's hip dysplasia that can be seen clear as day on an x-ray with two torn labrums, which is what allows the leg to move and walk, so the whole hip needs surgery on both sides to correct it. Moral: find a doctor that listens and keep advocating for yourself."


A woman touches her neck, appearing to check her pulse or feeling her skin. The image is closely focused on her face and hand
Andreypopov / Getty Images

15."I was 28 years old. I woke up on a Sunday morning after winning a huge award at a work event the night before. I had some lower abdominal pain and pressure that felt like the start of a UTI. As the day went on, my lower back started to have that same pain and pressure. The following day, I made an appointment to see my PCP because I was prone to UTI and kidney infections. As part of his routine questions, he asked if my bowel functions were normal. I said they had been a little off; however, I had been under a ton of stress and not eating the best. He wanted to feel my abdomen just to make sure everything was okay. He immediately sent me to the ER, where a scan revealed I had a mass larger than a basketball on my left ovary."

"Fast forward to an immediate appointment with a gynecological oncologist. She performed surgery nine days later to remove the giant tumor and was diagnosed with stage 3c dysgerminoma of my left ovary. I am now seven years cancer-free."


16."I was extremely tired and covered in bruises and red spots for a few weeks. It was an aggressive acute myeloid leukemia, and the urgent care doctor sent me straight to the hospital to start treatment. I had six months of chemo and was in remission for a few years. It ended up coming back, and I didn't have a bone marrow match, so I had a cord blood transplant. I have now been in remission for ten years."


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17."Mine was just off of cancer. I spotted a mole on my labia that I had never seen before. I immediately went to the doctor. She thought it was nothing but removed it anyway, just to make sure. It turned out to be stage 4 pre-vulvar cancer. If I hadn’t been so insistent on having it removed, I could have wound up with cancer that would have resulted in a vulvaectomy and serious disfigurement!"


18."I had triple-negative breast cancer (the scary kind that's very fast growing), which was treated with a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. Two years later, I felt my mastectomy scar (the part that was in my armpit). There was a tiny area of thickness in the scar. At first, I didn't think anything about it because I had never heard of cancer showing up in an armpit. But then I remembered that a thickening could be a sign of cancer."

"I made appointments with my surgeon and oncologist to examine it. My surgeon said it was a retained suture but told me to see my oncologist to see what she said. The oncologist laughed at me and told me it was nothing! To her credit, she ordered an ultrasound, but she told me again that she was sure it was nothing. I had the ultrasound anyway, which led to a biopsy, which led to a diagnosis of local breast cancer recurrence. I had a lumpectomy, a revision of my scar, and radiation therapy. I'm still here 12 years later."


Person wearing an off-shoulder top showing a scar, visible across the upper chest area. No text is present
Pradit_ph / Getty Images

19."Not me, but my mother. She was in her mid-fifties and was bleeding for a few months with mild cramping. She assumed, based on all her other symptoms, that she was going through menopause. Until one day, she was losing so much blood she couldn't stand up. She went to the hospital, was diagnosed with Stage 4 endometrial cancer, and was inoperable based on the location of the tumor. Somehow, she beat it and has had no active cancer for five years! It was a true miracle."


20."I had a small knotted bruise on my leg for two years. That should have been my first sign. However, two years later, ... I developed severe anxiety after choking on an airhead (hahaha). I would have panic attacks and spend a month or two constantly feeling faint. I went to the doctor, but they found nothing and suggested that I was just anxious and depressed due to a recent health scare with my dad. I talked to a therapist and was prescribed medication for anxiety. Two weeks later, I had my first seizure. It turned out that faint feeling was because of a brain tumor, and the anxiety, I'm guessing, is because I could sense something was wrong."

"31 days and over 50 seizures later, I had an awake craniotomy to remove the tumor. They did a biopsy, and it was cancer. Six weeks of oral chemo in conjunction with six weeks of radiation and another year of maintenance chemo, and that bruise finally went away. Over a year since I finished maintenance chemo and I'm still having good scans."


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The CW

21."My chest felt heavy, and I could not clear out the rasp in my cough. I was sure it was just an unusually heavy allergy season, but my wife insisted on a chest x-ray, and they found a spot that turned out to be a lump growing 'uncomfortably fast' in the doctor's own words. Luckily, it was a contained lump with no significant branches or anything, so after one chest surgery (and recovery time), I am back to full health."


22."I went to see a gastroenterologist for stomach pains I was having on my lower right side; I thought I maybe had mild chronic appendicitis, but those pains were likely stress aggravating a small area of diverticulitis, but I digress. After the doctor explained that appendix pain would be far more severe, he noted that I had several of the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome and scheduled me for some scans. It turns out it wasn't PCOS, but I had a golfball-sized tumor growing on my LEFT ovary."

"I'd always had extremely heavy, long, and painful periods but no other signs. I had the tumor removed and found out it was a very unusual case of ovarian cancer — the tumor type wasn't typical, nor was how it was growing off my ovary. I was lucky enough just to have one more surgery to remove said ovary and a small spot where the cancer had spread to my peritoneum, and everything came back negative, so no chemo or radiation. I'm almost 12 years cancer-free."


23."I was a teacher. It was conference time, and I would always get tired and ill because of the stress and long hours. I was extremely fatigued and had a sore throat and headache. I had some bruising. I didn't make much of that because I bruised like a banana. I finished conferences, and the next day was Thanksgiving. I felt like crap, but the clinic wasn't open, so I waited until Friday to go in. I thought for sure I had strep throat. They did a throat culture, and it came back negative. They did bloodwork to see if it was mono. It took forever to get the lab results back while I waited in the waiting room. When labs finally came back and I met with the doctor, she asked me if I was there alone. I was. She told me that my white cell count was extremely high and they couldn't help me there, so I had to go to one of two hospitals. Someone had to drive me. I had to go directly there without stopping for anything."

"Once I got there, they told me I had acute myeloid leukemia. That was 11 years ago."


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24."I was three. I fell off a one-foot retaining wall in our backyard and started screaming. My mom's a nurse and knew it was something more than just being scared. We went to the ER, and they found a tumor on my kidney. After running a bunch of tests to determine what kind of tumor, they took the kidney out. Several rounds of chemo and radiation over the next year, and I've been cancer-free for 40+ years."


25."When I turned four, I started getting really tired all the time, and I'd bruise super easily. My parents didn't think much of it until I started complaining about back pain. I was not a complainer as a kid, so they knew I must be in a lot of pain. They took me to the doctor, who found I had a compression fracture in my spine. You don't just randomly get compression fractures in your spine. So they ran a bunch of tests, and it turned out I had leukemia. Been cancer-free for almost 20 years."



26."I'm a 32-year-old man who was just diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma last week. I had zero symptoms. Zero pain. I randomly had a scan on my liver, and the scan caught a cancerous mass on my kidney. The cancer doctor said nothing about lifestyle caused it. Sometimes, cancer just happens. But I most likely would've started having symptoms/issues in 10-15 years."


27."I had pain in my back that, at first, I thought might be kidney stones. Eventually, it became a dull uncomfortableness, but it lasted for a couple of weeks. My friends insisted I go to the doctor, who ordered X-rays. She then referred me to a kidney specialist, but they said it wasn't the kidney but something outside of it and referred me to a urologist. He said it was an 11 cm tumor attached to my kidney."

"I had surgery to remove both the tumor and kidney, and the pathology report showed it was cancerous, but any cancer cells only went into that one kidney and nowhere else. This also happened right before everything shut down for the pandemic. I've been cancer-free for 4.5 years now, and fortunately, my other kidney is functioning normally."


28."I felt a lump last year on my right breast. I'm not at the age where mammograms are recommended. I went to my PCP, and she sent me to have imaging done. It was at a teaching hospital, so there were like four doctors in the room for my ultrasound. Then they sent me to get a mammogram, and then they took me into a small room and told me it might be cancer. I had a biopsy the next day, and the results came back the next week on my 32nd birthday that I had stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma with a grade 3 tumor."

"I had chemo, lumpectomy, and radiation. Now, I'm on maintenance therapy for the next couple of years. Trust your instincts, people! See the doctor and ask questions. Also, if they tell you it might be cancer and have you come back in a couple of weeks for a biopsy, say no and have them schedule it sooner. My tumor hardened and doubled in size in a couple of weeks."


Upper image: Two people stand in an urban setting with debris. Text reads, "It's only a few weeks."Lower image: Close-up of a person. Text reads, "A lot can happen in a few weeks."

29."I started having double vision in the evening. The first eye doctor told me that it was from being in front of a computer all day for work. The double vision worsened, and I went to another eye doctor. They said I had thyroid eye disease, but my thyroid levels were fine. They also referred me to a neurologist ophthalmologist. I saw him — he said it happens in people who have poor eyesight (like myself) but sent me for an MRI. It ended up being a clival chordoma, which is a one-in-a-million bone cancer in my brain."

"I had it removed, and 42 treatments of radiation later, I am almost two years post-treatment. Afterward, I realized my border collie would always try and lick my ears. I think to try and get the tumor out of my head. After tumor removal, my dog stopped licking my ears."


30."My sister started having pain in her abdomen. Over a couple of days, it got worse and worse to where she could barely walk. My mom made her go to the doctor. They found a tear in her bowel and scheduled her for surgery. While in surgery, they found colon cancer, stage 2. The tear had nothing to do with the cancer. If she wouldn't have had that tear, she would've never known. Thankfully, they got it all out in the surgery, and her checkups with her oncologist have been fine."


31."I caught my belly skin in the zipper of my jeans. The sore didn't fully heal or go away for over a year. It didn't really get any bigger, it was just red, flaky and a bit itchy. I asked my GP about it, and she asked me if I believed in God (wtf). I asked why that was relevant, and she said, 'You know we're all going to die.' I reminded her that I was only 25 (she's no longer my GP!). I went to one dermatologist twice, who said nothing was wrong. The second dermatologist said nothing was wrong, but I begged for a biopsy. Turned out to be basal cell skin cancer. Trust your instincts!"


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32."Started having back pain. I figured it was from sitting around too much, as I tend to drive a lot and spend a lot of time behind the screen. Eventually, the pain got worse, and I started to get pain in my abdomen. The pain got so bad that I was taking the maximum dosage of Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen just to get to bed. Stage 3b Germ cell tumor. It spread all over, but I'm cancer-free now."


33."Initially, back pain and general malaise. I kept going back as the back pain got worse, eventually it was so bad it severely limited my quality of life. I was dismissed. Then I went back because my ribs seemed to be protruding on one side. Again, I was dismissed. I returned when the mass was so large they couldn't deny it, and I was finally sent for the CT scan I had requested for years. This scan revealed a 26cm mass in my 120 lb body that was later revealed to be pancreatic cancer."


A person wearing a white shirt and plaid pants is standing with their hands on their lower back, appearing to have back pain
Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

34."There were several incidents, spread out over about a year's time, of me having violent vomiting and diarrhea in quick succession. I figured I just had a recurring stomach bug. The last time it happened, it kept going, and I wasn't able to keep anything down, even broth. My wife called crying to get me in for a CT scan. If you've ever had to get one, at the time, you had to drink a barium smoothie prior to it. The whole morning before the scan, I was trying to keep the smoothie down. Immediately after they'd spent about 60 seconds looking at the results, I was instructed to check into the emergency room. Turns out I had colon cancer at 43. Amazingly, considering its size, the cancer was contained in my colon. I got lucky. I'm now 56 and still here."


35."My hair was falling out, and I was irritable. I just thought it was the result of bariatric surgery. I got labs, and they showed my TSH was out of whack. Again, I thought it was the result of bariatric surgery. Doc recommended an ultrasound of my thyroid. I really didn't think it was necessary since the physical exam of my thyroid was fine. I decided to get the ultrasound done cause it was my lunch break, and they had an opening (I worked at a hospital). The ultrasound found suspicious nodules; I had a biopsy a few days later and was in surgery a week later to get my thyroid removed due to papillary thyroid cancer."


A person holding a hairbrush with a large amount of hair tangled in it
Andri Wahyudi / Getty Images

36."My husband had a small bump near the corner of his eye, so he went to the doctor to get checked out. She ordered a panel of blood tests since he hadn't been in for a while, including a test for an elevated chemical that could indicate prostate cancer, for which he had no symptoms. First, he turned out to have very early-stage prostate cancer that was completely removed using a surgical robot, then the test on his eye came back, and that was early-stage melanoma that was also completely removed. If he had ignored that eye bump much longer, two types of cancer would have been growing in him at once."


37."My husband...he had this awful persistent stomach ache. He thought it was constipation; I kept telling him to go to the doctor. Finally, he woke up one morning doubled over in pain, so I took him to the ER. It turned out he had a super rare form of gastrointestinal cancer."

"It came back recently with the same symptoms, but this time, we got him to the doctor quickly."


38."I had intermittent bleeding while having bowel movements. Never in my underwear, and only sometimes when wiping. No other symptoms. I thought maybe it was an internal hemorrhoid. Nope. Stage 3 colon cancer at 39. 2023 ate me up and spit me out, but I'm cancer-free, and my head is topped with chemo curls."


The image features the back of a person with short, curly hair wearing a top with a buttoned back. The focus is on the hairstyle
Penpak Ngamsathain / Getty Images

39.And finally..."No symptoms. Just my primary saying, 'Well, it's been five years since your last mammo; let's get you another one.'"


If you've had cancer, what was the sign or symptom you wish you hadn't ignored? Let us know in the comments!

Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.