Red Flags

People with cancer may present with symptoms and signs that indicate the need for  medical review.

Symptoms requiring urgent medical review include:

  • Unrelenting pain especially with weight bearing
  • Saddle paresthesia
  • Loss of bladder/bowel
  • Sudden onset muscle weakness
  • Fever
  • Sudden swelling redness and pain

Signs to look out for include:

  • Recent unexplained weight loss
  • Night pain

It is also important to be aware of specific oncological emergencies.

If your patient presents with any of the following they should present to the emergency department:

  • Oncological emergencies – cauda equina (loss of bladder and bowel control), tumour lysis, hypercalcaemia, malignant pericardial effusion, superior vena cava syndrome
  • Haematological emergencies – febrile neutropaenia, thromboembolism

Printable oncological emergencies table.

Source: Adapted from Maltser et al. PM &R 2017