It’s important to be aware of any unexplained changes to your body, such as the sudden appearance of a lump, blood in your urine, or a change to your usual bowel habits.
These symptoms are often caused by other, non-cancerous illnesses, but it’s important to see your GP so they can investigate.
If your GP suspects cancer, they’ll refer you to a specialist – usually within two weeks.
The specialist will carry out further tests, such as a biopsy or X-ray, and plan any necessary treatment.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of cancer include:
Lump in your breast:
See your GP if you notice a lump in your breast or if you have a lump that’s rapidly increasing in size elsewhere on your body. Your GP will refer you to a specialist for tests if they think you may have cancer.
Coughing, chest pain and breathlessness:
Visit your GP if you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks. Symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain may be a sign of a severe (acute) condition, such as pneumonia. See your GP straight away if you experience these types of symptoms.
Changes in bowel habits:
See your GP if you’ve experienced one of the changes listed below and it’s lasted for more than a few weeks:
- blood in your stools
- diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
- a feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
- pain in your stomach (abdomen) or back passage (anus)
- persistent bloating
You should also see your GP if you have any unexplained bleeding, such as:
- blood in your urine
- bleeding between periods
- bleeding from your bottom
- blood when you cough
- blood in your vomit .
See your GP if you have a mole that:
- has an irregular or asymmetrical shape
- has an irregular border with jagged edges
- has more than one colour – it may be flecked with brown, black, red, pink or white
- is bigger than 7mm in diameter
- is itchy, crusting or bleeding
Any of the above changes means there’s a chance you have malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
Unexplained weight loss:
You should also see your GP if you’ve lost a lot of weight over the last couple of months that can’t be explained by changes to your diet, exercise or stress.
Fever is one of the most common and non-specific signs of cancer. It is more common when the cancer has spread from where it started. Almost all cancer patients develop fever at some time or other. Fever may be an early sign of cancer in leukaemia or lymphoma.
Besides skin cancers, other cancers can also cause signs or symptoms in the skin such as yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice) may occur in tumour of the pancreas, or liver and excessive hair growth may occur in lung cancer.