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Cold and Flu Center

Flu-Like Symptoms with Cancer

author image Rae Uddin
Rae Uddin has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2004. She specializes in scientific journalism and medical and technical writing. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Uddin earned her Master of Science in integrated biomedical sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biochemistry from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Flu-Like Symptoms with Cancer
Cancer may give you flu-like symptoms. Photo Credit Mark Bowden/iStock/Getty Images


Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States were diagnosed with cancer in 2009, report health officials at the American Cancer Society. Though symptoms of cancer can vary based upon the affected body region and the stage of the cancer at which the symptoms appear, the emergence of flu-like symptoms is common among all types of cancer. Health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that flu symptoms can include fever and chills, body aches, fatigue and stomach upset. Patients who develop these flu-like symptoms and have had other suspicions that something more than flu may be at work should talk with a doctor. If cancer is present, it's important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible and begin treatment.

Fever and Chills

Fever is one of most common flu-like symptoms associated with cancer. Cancerous cells that invade the body can damage the immune system, which may lead to fever symptoms in certain cancer patients. A fever is a natural response generated by the immune system to help the body fight off infection. Fever symptoms are typically low grade and can be constant or may occur sporadically in patients with cancer. These patients may also experience excessive sweating, chills or headache in conjunction with fever. Symptoms of fever should always be discussed with a physician to ensure affected patients receive appropriate treatment and care.

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Body Aches and Pains

Body aches and pains can be an early flu-like symptom of cancer in some patients. Sensations of pain may develop within any region of the body and typically localize to the site of cancerous cell growth. As the cancerous cells continue to develop, these body ache symptoms may begin to worsen. In patients with advanced forms of cancer, aching pain can spread throughout the entire body and may be constant. Persistent body pain should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible; this flu-like symptom of cancer can also be indicative of alternate infections.


Severe fatigue can occur as a flu-like symptom of cancer in affected patients, explains the Merck Manual, an online medical encyclopedia for health professionals. Cancerous cell growth can deplete the body's energy reserves, which can lead to sensations of tiredness or fatigue. Cancer patients may sleep longer than usual throughout the day and may experience difficulty remaining alert and focused while at work or school.

Stomach Upset and Weight Loss

Cancer patients commonly experience unexplained weight loss of more than 10 poinds, explains the American Cancer Society (ACS). This effect of cancer may also occur in conjunction with certain stomach-related flu-like symptoms, such as nausea or vomiting. Stomach upset symptoms can lead to a decreased appetite in cancer patients, which can ultimately lead to increased weight loss.

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