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The cancer itself

It's not really understood why certain cancers cause fevers and others don't. It's thought that some cancers may produce things like toxins that cause fever.

Cancers that cause fever

Fever caused by your cancer might come on in cycles. This means your temperature rises at the same time each day. You may have days or weeks when you don't have a temperature and then the fever starts again.

This type of fever can be very frustrating and uncomfortable. The cancers most likely to cause fevers are:

  • non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • ovarian cancer
  • acute or chronic leukaemia
  • kidney cancer (renal cell cancer)
  • liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma)
  • soft tissue sarcoma - this is cancer of the supporting tissues of the body such as the muscle, nerves, fat and blood vessels
  • adrenal gland tumours such as phaeochromocytomas
  • tumours in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus such as chordoid glioma

Your doctors might not be able to find any reason for your fever. Some types of non Hodgkin lymphoma cause night sweats and high temperatures that come and go with no obvious cause. This symptom often plays a part in helping doctors decide which type of non Hodgkin lymphoma you have.

Cancers that don't often cause fever

The most common types of cancer, such as breast cancer, lung cancer and bowel cancer, do not generally cause fever. But they may do if:

  • the cancer has spread to the liver
  • the tumour is causing an obstruction or blockage somewhere in your body

Treating fever

There are a number of treatments available to help you with a fever.

Last reviewed: 
02 Aug 2019
  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser 
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.

  • Cancer: Principles and practice of oncology (11th edition)
    V T DeVita and others
    Lipincott Williams and Wilkins, 2019.

  • Malignant causes of fever of unknown origin
    V Foggo and J Cavenagh
    Clinical Medicine (London), 2015. Volume 15, Issue 3, Pages 292 - 294.

  • Neurogenic fever in a patient with a chordoid glioma
    R G Carretero and others
    BMJ Case Reports, 2016. 

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. If you need additional references for this information please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular risk or cause you are interested in. 

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