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Signs and Symptoms

On this page you will find information about possible signs and symptoms of cancer and what to do if you are worried.

If you notice any possible cancer symptoms or any changes that are unusual for you, 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.

We know that if the signs of cancer are recognised and acted upon quickly a cancer is more likely to be diagnosed early and treated more successfully. 

The video below by Cancer Research UK shows you what to do if you experience any sings or symptoms you are worried about, during the Coronavirus pandemic:

You can find more information about the signs and symptoms of cancer on the Cancer Research UKMacmillan Cancer Support and NHS Choices websites.

Possible Signs and Symptoms


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 a lot of the time, tell your doctor.

Unexplained vaginal bleeding

Bleeding or ‘spotting’ between periods can be a side effect of the contraceptive pill. But still see your doctor if you bleed from the vagina between periods, or after sex or after the menopause. 

Very heavy night sweats

Sweating at night can be caused by infections or it can be a side effect of certain medications. It’s also often experienced by women around the time of the menopause. But very heavy, drenching night sweats can also be a sign of cancer and should be checked out by your doctor.

Croaky voice or hoarseness

Having a croaky voice or feeling hoarse can be common with colds. But a croaky voice that hasn’t gone away on its own should be checked out by your doctor.

Persistent heartburn or indigestion

It is normal to feel slight discomfort or pain sometimes after eating a large, fatty or spicy meal. But if you have heartburn or indigestion a lot, or if it is particularly painful, then you should see your doctor.

Mouth or tongue ulcer that won’t heal

It’s common to get ulcers in the mouth when you’re a bit run down. The lining of the mouth renews itself every 2 weeks or so, which is why ulcers usually heal within this time. But an ulcer that doesn’t heal after 3 weeks should be reported to your doctor or dentist.

Persistent bloating

It’s quite common for women to experience bloating of the abdomen that comes and goes. But if you feel bloated, most days, even if it comes and goes, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Difficulty swallowing

Some medical conditions can make it difficult to swallow. But if you are having difficulty swallowing and the problem doesn’t go away, it should be checked out.

A change in bowel habit, such as constipation, looser poo or pooing more often

Stomach bugs and food poisoning are often the cause of loose, frequent bowel motions. But if you’ve noticed any change in your bowel habit, it’s important to tell your doctor. Whether that’s looser poo, pooing more often, or constipation. 

Sore that won’t heal

The skin repairs itself very quickly and any damage usually heals within a week or so. When a spot, wart or sore doesn’t heal, even if it’s painless, a doctor needs to check it.

Appetite loss

Appetite loss can happen for many different reasons. Speak to your doctor if you’ve noticed you’re not as hungry as usual and it’s not getting any better. 

Unusual breast changes

Lumps are not the only breast changes that should be reported to a doctor. Also look out for any change in the size, shape or feel of a breast, any skin changes, redness, or pain in the breast. And don’t forget any nipple changes, including fluid leaking from the nipple in a woman who is not pregnant or breastfeeding.  Make sure your doctor knows about any changes.

Blood in your poo

The most common cause of blood in your poo (stools) is piles (haemorrhoids). But blood in your poo can sometimes be a sign of cancer. Your doctor wants to know if you spot blood when you go to the toilet.

Blood in your pee

Blood in your pee (urine) should always be reported to a doctor. Usually this is not caused by cancer and can be treated quickly and easily, but it could be a sign of cancer. Your doctor will be able to tell you what the cause is.

Problems peeing

Problems peeing (urinating) can include needing to pee urgently, or more frequently. It might also include being unable to go when you need to or experiencing pain. These symptoms can all be caused by conditions other than cancer, but it’s important to tell your doctor if you experience any of them.

Unexplained weight loss

Small weight changes over time are quite normal. But if you lose a noticeable amount of weight without trying to, tell your doctor.

New mole or changes to a mole

Most moles remain harmless throughout our lives. But be aware of any new moles or existing moles that change in size, shape or colour, become crusty or bleed or ooze. Let your doctor know. 

Coughing up blood

If you’ve coughed up blood, no matter how much or what colour, it’s important to tell your doctor. It may be nothing to worry about, but it’s important to get it checked out.

Persistent cough

Coughs are common with colds. But if a cough doesn’t go away or gets worse, make sure you tell your doctor.

Unexplained pain or ache

Pain is one way our bodies tell us that something is wrong. As we get older, it‘s more common to experience aches and pains. But if you have unexplained, ongoing pain, or pain that comes and goes, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Unusual lump or swelling anywhere

Persistent lumps or swelling in any part of your body should be taken seriously. That includes any lumps in the neck, armpit, stomach, groin, chest, breast or testicle. See your doctor to have it checked out.

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