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.

Read more about waiting times for cancer referrals and treatment.

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'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

Bleeding

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

Moles

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.

Read about unintentional weight loss.

More information

The following links have more useful information about cancer.

Cancer Research UK: cancer symptom checker

Macmillan: signs and symptoms of cancer

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): referral for suspected 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: 28/05/2015

Next review due: 28/05/2017

Page last reviewed: 05/09/2016

Next review due: 05/09/2019