Six common symptoms of flu that are also red flags for cancer

Cancer Research UK provide details on lymphoma

The MD and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Mashiul Chowdhury, confirmed that flu and cancer symptoms can feel the same.

Chowdhury said: “The symptoms of the flu often are similar to symptoms of cancer because some of the mechanisms are quite similar.

“Your immune system is down. So, you feel a malaise, you have a fever.”

These are not the only flu symptoms that could be identical to cancer.

Additional symptoms can include fatigue, chills, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes and a persistent cough.

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Chowdhury said: “Then you go to get a chest X-ray and you get a bad surprise – cancer.”

Six common symptoms of flu that could be due to cancer:

  1. Fever
  2. Fatigue
  3. Chills
  4. Weight loss
  5. Swollen lymph nodes
  6. Persistent cough.

While it’s rare for cancer to be inaccurately diagnosed as flu, if symptoms persist for two weeks or longer, it’s time to see a doctor.

These symptoms could be indicative of two types of cancers – lymphoma and leukaemia.

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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma develops in the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and glands throughout the body, the NHS explains.

The most common symptom of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a painless swelling in a lymph node, usually in the neck, armpit or groin.

Around 13,000 people are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma each year in the UK.

Typical treatment involves chemotherapy or radiotherapy; sometimes the cancer is small enough to be removed during a biopsy.


The Christie NHS Foundation Trust explained leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells.

There are four main types of leukaemia, depending on which type of white blood cell is affected.

  • Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
  • Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

As with any type of cancer, early diagnosis is key for more effective management and treatment.

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