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Signs and symptoms - Cancer

It's important to be aware of any new or worrying symptoms.

Although it's unlikely to be cancer, it's important to speak to a GP so they can investigate. Finding cancer early means it's easier to treat.

If your GP suspects cancer, they'll refer you to a specialist – usually within 2 weeks.

Information:

How to contact a GP during coronavirus

To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

All GP surgeries are making sure it's safe for you to attend appointments during coronavirus (COVID-19).

Find out about using the NHS during coronavirus

Changes in bowel habits

Speak to a GP if you've noticed these changes and it's lasted for 3 weeks or more:

  • tummy discomfort
  • blood in your poo
  • 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 or back passage (anus)
  • your poo is loose, pale or looks greasy

Bloating

Speak to a GP if you've had bloating for 3 weeks or more.

Bleeding

You should also speak to a GP if you have any unexplained bleeding, such as:

Coughing, chest pain and breathlessness

Contact a GP if you've had a cough for 3 weeks or more.

Symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain may also be a sign of a condition such as pneumonia. Speak to a GP straight away if you have these types of symptoms.

Lumps

Speak to a GP if you notice a lump in your breast or if you have a lump that's noticeably increasing in size elsewhere on your body.

It’s important to regularly check your breasts, underarms, groin and testicles for any new lumps or changes.

Moles

Speak to a GP if you have a mole that:

  • changes shape or looks uneven
  • changes colour, gets darker or has more than 2 colours
  • starts itching, crusting, flaking or bleeding
  • gets larger or more raised from the skin

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 speak to a GP if you've lost a lot of weight over the last couple of months that cannot be explained by changes to your diet, exercise or stress.

Read about unintentional weight loss.

Tummy or back pain

Speak to a GP if you have pain anywhere in your tummy or back and you’re not sure what’s causing it. This includes a dull pain that’s always there or a sharp pain that comes and goes.

Indigestion and heartburn

Some cancers can give you indigestion, or heartburn and acid reflux. This can feel like burning in your chest (heartburn) and make you burp or hiccup more than usual.

Speak to a GP if you get any of these symptoms regularly and are not sure why you’re getting them.

Itchy or yellow skin

Speak to a GP if your skin is itchy, and your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow (jaundice). Your pee may also look darker than usual.

Feeling tired and unwell

With some cancers the symptoms can be harder to notice. It’s important to speak to a GP if you think something is not right, or you keep feeling tired and unwell and you’re not sure why.

Information:

People at higher risk

It’s particularly important to look out for cancer symptoms if:

  • you have been diagnosed with a condition that means you’re at higher risk of getting cancer
  • 2 or more of your close relatives (such as a parent, brother or sister) have had cancer

More information

The following links have more useful information about cancer:

Page last reviewed: 17 September 2019
Next review due: 17 September 2022