Cancer - Signs and symptoms 

Signs and symptoms of cancer 

One for the Boys: has cancer touched you?

One for the Boys is a male cancer awareness campaign. In this video, male actors describe how cancer has touched their lives and those of their friends and families.

Media last reviewed: 30/07/2013

Next review due: 30/07/2015

It is 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 in your usual bowel habits.

These symptoms are often caused by other, non-cancerous illnesses, but it is important you see your GP so they can investigate.

Other potential signs and symptoms of cancer are outlined below. 

Lump in your breast

See your GP if you notice a lump in your breast, or if you have a lump that is 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

You should visit your GP if you have had a cough for more than three weeks.

Symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain may be a sign of an acute (severe) condition, such as pneumonia (a lung infection). Go to see your GP straight away if you experience these types of symptoms.

Changes in bowel habits

Go to see your GP if you have experienced one of the changes listed below and it has 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 abdomen (tummy) or your anus (back passage)
  • persistent bloating

Bleeding

You should also go to see your GP if you have any unexplained bleeding such as:

  • blood in your urine
  • bleeding between periods
  • blood from your back passage
  • blood when you cough
  • blood in your vomit

Moles

Go to 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 then 7mm in diameter
  • is itchy, crusting or bleeding

Any of the above changes means that there is a chance you have malignant melanoma (skin cancer).

Unexplained weight loss

You should also go to see your GP if you have lost a lot of weight over the last couple of months that cannot be explained by changes to your diet, exercise or stress.

More information

The following links have more useful information about cancer.

Macmillan: signs and symptoms of cancer

Cancer Research UK: cancer signs and symptoms

NICE guidelines: referral for suspected cancer


If your GP suspects cancer

If your GP suspects cancer, they will 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.


Page last reviewed: 25/06/2012

Next review due: 25/06/2014

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

fsumsion said on 12 August 2010

Helpful and useful for future reference

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Charlotte Esler

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