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A Sore that doesn't Heal - Is it a Sign of Cancer?

    A Sore that doesn't Heal - Is it a Sign of Cancer?

    Cancer is a tricky disease. Most of the time, it doesn’t show any outward sign or symptom until it has progressed into its later stages. By that time, the rate of successful treatment might have already significantly decreased. This is the reason why you must be aware of the different cancer warning signs. One of which is a wound or lesion that doesn’t heal. In this article, we’ll talk about the ways on how to detect a cancer sore.

    CAUTION: Know the Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

    Cancer and Wound Healing – The Connection

    At this point, you may be wondering – what’s the connection between delayed wound healing and cancer? To answer that question, we need to discuss what the researchers from the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine discovered.

    First, let’s keep in mind that a cancerous tumor is not just a big ball of cells that don’t do anything. Experts emphasize that they are almost like a “miniature organ.” This means that these tumors will “create and co-opt” their own blood supply. A good question to ask is, how are these tumors going to create their own blood supply?

    According to the study, cancer tumors “steal” the body’s wound healing process.

    You see, the endothelial cells – cells that line the blood vessels – have specific functions in tissure repair. Our body uses these processes to heal injuries, repair tissues, and surprisingly, make new blood vessels.

    It turns out that cancer tumors “hijack” the body’s wound healing response so that they can make their own blood supply. In doing so, these tumors grow and develop.

    What Are Malignant Wounds?

    Aside from stealing the body’s natural wound healing response, some types of cancer also cause open cancerous skin lesions. These lesions are called “malignant wounds.” So, before we discuss the ways on how to detect a cancer sore, let’s first talk about this type of wound.

    Malignant wounds happen when cancer cells invade the skin along with its blood and lymphatic vessels. The invasion causes the tissues to die, prompting inflammation, and possibly, infection.

    Malignant wounds should be taken seriously. Not only do they indicate cancer, but they also interfere with a person’s quality of life. Furthermore, advanced wounds have very little chance of healing.

    What You Need to Know About Benign vs Malignant Tumors

    How to Detect a Cancer Sore

    By now, you already understand that cancers can steal the body’s ability to heal wounds. You also know that some types of cancer can cause malignant wounds. The next thing you might be interested in is the ways on how to detect a cancer sore.

    To check for malignant wounds, you can use the following parameters:


    A malignant wound may look like a cavity or open lesion in the skin. In some cases, they look like irregular growths or skin bumps. You can develop them anywhere in your body, even in your mouth (mouth sores).

    Additionally, you can check for these characteristics which may point to a skin cancer:

    • Check if you can see a bit through the bump (translucent). While checking you may notice some tiny blood vessels in it.
    • See if the lesion has raised, translucent border, and dark spots.
    • Look for flat, scaly, or reddish patches, typically on the back and chest.
    • Assess for a clear, waxy, lesion with no clear border.


    Another way to detect a cancer sore is to check for pain. Some patients indicate that their malignant wounds are very painful. Experts explain that it could be because the wound is “pressing down” on blood vessels and nerves.

    how to detect a cancer sore


    Checking for bleeding is another way on how to spot a cancer sore. According to reports, the wound may spread into the blood vessels, causing it to bleed. Additionally, the surface of the sore may be sensitive. It can easily be damaged causing blood to gush out.


    It’s uncommon for a wound to develop any sort of odor unless it is malignant or infected. According to reports, the odor is one of the things about malignant wounds that cause emotional distress in patients. It happens when some bacteria break down the proteins in the dead tissues.


    Finally, to detect a cancer sore, check the wound for drainage. Wound drainage (or exudate) is the liquid produced by the body due to tissue damage. The amount of exudate in malignant wounds varies depending on some factors, like the presence of infection and rate of blood flow.

    When to Seek Medical Help

    The general rule is this: if a wound, even one as simple as mouth sore, doesn’t heal like it’s supposed to, go to the doctor. Ask yourself questions like “What caused this wound?” and “How long have I had it?”

    For instance, if you got injured while shaving, the wound should probably heal within a week or so. Especially, if you take care of it well. If the wound doesn’t heal after several weeks, or if it gets worse, consulting a doctor should be a priority.

    Also, seek medical help if after you have assessed your wound you found out that the lesion:

    • Bleeds for a long time, even if you apply pressure on it.
    • Has very red edges
    • Emits bad odor
    • Is more painful than other wounds you’ve had before
    • Has yellow pus or greenish exudates
    • Develop changes around it

    Finally, go to the doctor if you develop a fever as it could also be a sign of infection.

    What Types of Cancer Cause Malignant Wounds

    After learning the ways on how to detect a cancer sore, let’s enumerate some types of cancer that may cause malignant wounds. They include:

    Health Habits That Can Lower Your Risk of Cancer

    Key Takeaways

    When an injury happens, our body tries its hardest to heal it as quickly as possible. If a wound or lesion doesn’t get better, or if it gets worse, there must be something wrong. Maybe it’s a condition, like diabetes, or it could also be cancer.

    That’s why it’s important to know how to detect a cancer sore. Remember to check for the wound’s healing progress, as well as its appearance, bleeding, pain, odor, and discharge.

    Learn more about common cancer symptoms, here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated May 31, 2021
    Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD
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