By Cancer Research UK
Monday, September 22, 2014.
Thousands of people beat cancer every year. Spotting the signs and symptoms is a key
part of this because when cancer is diagnosed at an
early stage treatment is more likely to be successful.
Around 9 in 10 cases of cancer are in people aged 50 and
over. However anyone can develop cancer and it’s
important to get to know your body and what’s normal for you. So if you
notice any unusual or persistent changes, tell your GP. Chances are it won't be
cancer, but if it is spotting it early can make all the
An unusual lump or swelling anywhere on your
Many men know that any unusual
lump in their testicle should be checked out. And women are generally aware
that they should see a doctor about an unusual breast lump.
But persistent lumps or
swellings in other parts of the body should also be taken seriously. This
includes lumps and swellings in your neck, armpit, abdomen, groin or chest
If these symptoms last for
three weeks or more, it’s important to get them checked out. A good time to
notice unusual lumps and bumps is in the bath or shower.
A change in size, shape or colour of a mole
Most moles remain harmless
throughout our lives. But new moles that appear, ones that change in size,
shape or colour over weeks or months, or ones that are crusty, bleed or ooze,
should be checked out by a doctor.
It’s important to keep an eye on your skin and look out for changes - ask your partner or
a friend to check areas you can’t see, such as your back. This is particularly
important if you have fair, freckly or moley skin that tends to burn easily, or
if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer.
A sore that won’t heal after several weeks
Our skin repairs itself very
quickly, and any damage usually heals within a week or so. When a spot, wart or
sore doesn’t heal and lasts for several weeks, it needs checking out and could
need treatment. Even if it is painless, you should see your doctor.
A mouth or tongue ulcer that lasts longer than
Many people get mouth ulcers when they are run down and this is usually
nothing to worry about. The lining of the mouth renews itself every two weeks
or so, which is why ulcers usually don’t last longer than that. But any single
ulcer that lasts longer than three weeks without healing should be reported to
your doctor or dentist.
A cough or croaky voice that lasts longer than
A cough and croaky voice are
common symptoms of a cold. They often go away after a week or so and usually
aren’t signs of anything serious. But if they last for longer than three weeks,
if you cough up blood, or if an existing cough changes or gets worse,
you should go to your doctor. This is particularly important if you smoke or have
ever smoked as you are more likely to suffer from throat and lung diseases.
Persistent difficulty swallowing or indigestion
A number of medical conditions
can make it difficult to swallow. But if you are having difficulty swallowing
and the problem doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks, it should be checked
It is normal to feel slight
discomfort or pain sometimes after eating a large, fatty or spicy meal. But if
you are experiencing indigestion a lot, or if it is particularly painful, then
you should see your doctor.
Problems passing urine
As men get older they often
have problems passing urine. They may find they need to pass urine urgently or
more often, are unable to go when they need to, or experience pain when they
do. These symptoms are usually caused by a common medical condition that causes
the prostate gland to enlarge. Less commonly, these symptoms can be caused by
prostate cancer. If you’re having any of these problems, you should see your
For women, infections are the
most common cause of pain and difficulty passing urine. But needing to pass
urine urgently or more often than usual should be checked out.
Blood in your urine
Blood in your urine should
always be reported to a doctor. Usually it isn’t caused by cancer and can be
treated quickly and easily. But it could be a sign of something more serious.
Either way, the best thing to do is to go to your doctor.
Blood in your bowel motions
The most common cause of blood in the bowel motions is piles. This condition is brought on by
straining when going to the toilet. But blood in your bowel movements can be a
symptom of a more serious condition such as bowel cancer, so it’s very
important to get it checked out.
A change to more frequent bowel motions that
lasts longer than four to six weeks
Stomach bugs and food
poisoning are the most usual causes of loose, frequent bowel motions, or diarrhoea. This doesn’t usually last long,
clearing up within a few days. If you have noticed a change in your bowel
habits lasting longer than four to six weeks, it could be a more serious bowel
Most cases of bowel cancer are
in older people, with more than nine out of ten cases in people over 50. If
you’re younger, bowel changes are likely to be caused by other medical
conditions. But if you have noticed any lasting bowel changes, you should see
Unexplained weight loss or heavy night sweats
Small weight changes over time
are quite normal. But if you have noticeably lost weight without dieting, this
should be checked out by your doctor.
Heavy night sweats can be
brought on by infections and certain medications in both men and women. They
are also often experienced by women around the time of the menopause. But heavy
night sweats can also be caused by certain types of cancer, and you should see
An unexplained pain or ache that lasts longer than
Pain is one way our bodies
tell us that something is wrong. As we get older, many of us have aches and
pains. In general, if you experience any continuous unexplained pain, or any
unexplained pain that comes and goes over a period longer than four weeks, you
should make an appointment to see your doctor.
It’s not unusual to feel out
of breath every now and then. But if you notice that you’re feeling breathless
more than usual or for much of the time, make an appointment to see your doctor
because it could be a sign of lung cancer.
People often put
breathlessness down to getting older. But if you or anyone else has noticed
that you’re more out of breath than usual, do get yourself checked out. Chances
are it’s nothing to worry about, but if it’s a sign of lung cancer or something
else, knowing what it is and how to treat it can make all the difference. Even
if you already have something wrong with your lungs that makes breathing more
difficult, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), tell your
doctor or nurse if you find you’re more out of breath than usual.
Coughing up blood
If you’ve coughed up blood, no
matter how much or what colour, make an appointment to see your doctor. It may
be nothing to worry about but it could be a sign of lung cancer.
Many people think they would
see their doctor if they noticed something as serious as coughing up blood but
the truth is that people don’t always. Perhaps they don’t think they’ve coughed
up enough for it to be anything to worry about, or they’re worried about what
the doctor might find. In any case, any coughing up of blood, no matter how
much or what colour, should be checked out. If it’s nothing, your doctor will
be able to reassure you. But if it’s something, finding out what it is and
getting treatment started can be really important.
Signs of cancer for women:
An unusual breast change
Lumps are not the only changes
to the breast that should be reported to a doctor. Also look out for any change in the size, shape or feel of
a breast, a change
to the skin texture, redness, a nipple change or pain in one breast.
Bleeding from the vagina after the menopause or between
Bleeding between periods, or
‘spotting’ as it is sometimes known, is a fairly common side effect of the
contraceptive pill. But bleeding from the vagina between periods, after sex or
after the menopause should be checked out.
Many women experience a
bloating of their abdomen which comes and goes. But if you notice persistent
bloating, make an appointment to see your doctor because it could be a sign of
You can find out about
the key signs and symptoms at Cancer Research UK website.