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Cancer has several characteristics that allow it to spread, but its ability to invade tissue is one of the main driving forces behind metastasis. Sometimes, the mere presence of a tumour in the body is enough to trigger a neoplastic fever, but this is rare. Oftentimes, an increase in body temperature is a sign that a tumour is invading nearby tissue.
Pyrexia, the medical term for a raised body temperature or fever, is a common reaction to infection or illness.
Healthline states that when pyrexia is present in cancer patients, it is “usually a sign that cancer has spread” or is “advanced”.
“It can be very uncomfortable and cause a lot of concern for you and those looking after you,” explains Cancer Research UK.
It is a common symptom of all types of cancer, but some papers state it is more prevalent in blood cancers like leukaemia and lymphoma.
The most common types of cancer, such as breast cancer, lung cancer and bowel cancer, are less likely to cause fever.
However, a person with these cancers may become feverish if their tumour has “spread to the liver”, explains Cancer Research UK.
It may also be a sign that the cancer is causing an obstruction or blockage somewhere in the body.
The Herald Scholarly Open Access journal states: “Fever is an evident sign of inflammatory reactions taking place in the body.
“It is a well know common symptom observed in 67 percent of infection cases.
“In contrast, neoplastic fever arises from the tumour itself or invasive procedure.”
Sometimes the body responds to the raised temperature by sweating, as this helps heat escape the body.
This is why cancer patients often experience hot flashes and night sweats before they’re diagnosed.
In fact, night sweats that come on for any apparent reason have been named a sign of some blood cancers like Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In Hodgkin lymphoma, there is a rare condition that can cause fever to strike in cycles, meaning it rises and falls in weekly intervals.
This means a person may have days or weeks without having a raised body temperature, before seeing their fever return.
It is poorly understood why some cancers cause fever more than others, but one theory is that certain diseases produce toxins, which are more likely to cause fever.
The Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Centre explains that pyrogens may have a role in cancer fever.
The health portal explains: “A tumour can produce pyrogens, cause an infection that produces pyrogens, or interfere with the normal functioning of the hypothalamus.”
It’s important to note that in cancer patients receiving treatment, pyrexia may simply be a side effect of the medication, rather than of the disease itself.
The earlier an infection or fever is treated, the less likely it is that you will have more serious complications.
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