Symptoms of ulcerating tumours

It can be distressing to read about the symptoms of ulcerating tumours. But the sooner your doctor can diagnose an ulcerating tumour, the sooner you can get support.

What it might look like

An ulcerating tumour can start as a shiny, red lump on the skin.

If the lump breaks down, it will look like a sore. The wound will often get bigger without any treatment. It can spread into surrounding skin or grow deeper into the skin and form holes.

The skin around the wound may look red and blistered. Pieces of dead skin (tissue) can sometimes fall off.

Other symptoms

You might have other symptoms, such as:

  • a strong, unpleasant smell from the wound
  • itching
  • oozing from the wound – this may be pus or clear fluid
  • pain where the wound is
  • pain elsewhere in the body from the wound pressing on nerves
  • bleeding (including from the skin around the wound)

How you might feel

You might feel scared or embarrassed about going to your doctor or nurse. Or you might feel frightened of what they would say the problem is.

These feelings are normal and understandable. But the sooner a doctor treats the wound, the easier it is to control and the less effect it will have on your life.

See your doctor as soon as possible if you think you might have an ulcerating tumour. Or you could see your practice nurse, nurse practitioner or symptom control nurse.

Last reviewed: 
11 Dec 2019
  • Palliative care - malignant skin ulcer

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

    Accessed December 2019

  • Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine (5th edition) 

    N Cherny and others

    Oxford University Press, 2015

  • Recommendations for the Care of Patients with Malignant Fungating Wounds

    European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS), 2015

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