Good to Know > Is Unexplained Weight Loss a Sign of Cancer?

Is Unexplained Weight Loss a Sign of Cancer?

Unexplained weight loss might look like a pleasant surprise! However, it may be associated with some diseases. If you observe a sudden weight loss without dieting or exercise, it could be the first sign of a certain health issue. 

Such a condition may have medical or nonmedical causes. Weight loss is common in patients suffering from cancer. This makes “cancer” even more relevantly connected to unexplained loss of more than six percent of your body weight, besides other symptoms.

In this article, you will learn about unexplained weight loss, including when it’s problematic and its other causes.

Weight Loss in Patients with Cancer

Weight loss doesn’t just occur in certain specific types of cancers. It may be a characteristic of colon cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and liver cancer only. 

Specifically, in cancer patients, weight loss may be a common symptom because:

- the patients might eat less due to other symptoms like loss of appetite and diarrhea.

- there may be some change in the metabolism due to the intake of cytotoxic drugs.

- there may be some change in the functioning of the body due to the growth of the tumor.

Even if it is a common symptom of cancer, one must look up to other causes also. Here are some of the potential conditions that can lead to unexplained weight loss.

Other Potential Causes of Unexplained Weight Loss

Other than sticking to the fear of having cancer, you can go through the other potential causes of unexplained weight loss. The following are some of them.

1. Addison's disease or adrenal insufficiency

2. Amyloidosis, the buildup of abnormal proteins in the organs

3. Celiac disease

4. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

5. A type of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease

6. Dementia

7. Dental problems

8. Depression

9. Diabetes

10. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

11. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

12. Medications

13. Parkinson's disease

14. Peptic ulcer

15. Substance abuse 

16. Tuberculosis

17. Ulcerative colitis

18. Heart failure


20. Hypercalcemia

21. Changes in diet or appetite

22. Changes in sense of smell

23. Changes in sense of taste

The diseases mentioned above may be accompanied by certain other symptoms also. If you are experiencing unexplained weight loss, know when to see a doctor. 

See a Doctor

Besides weight loss, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, make sure to consult a doctor.

- Vomiting blood

- Vomit that looks like coffee grounds

- Inability to swallow solids or liquids

- Significant rectal bleeding

- Trouble breathing

- Dizziness and fainting

- Confusion 

In case your weight loss is not related to any of the above-mentioned symptoms, call your doctor and explain your current condition. Make the doctor aware of the diseases you have or ever had, plus the medications you are administering. Sometimes, the drugs we consume can also cause such side effects. Therefore, it is better to know the cause than to be worried about it. 

Once you reach out to your healthcare provider, you may be prescribed certain tests to detect the disease you are suffering from. Accordingly, you will be treated.