Key signs and symptoms of cancer

It is important to know your body and to tell your doctor if you notice a change which isn’t normal for you.

  • Anyone can develop cancer, but it’smore common as we get older – most cases are in people aged 50 or over
  • Don’t just put something new or different about your body down to things like getting older.If you notice any unusual or persistent changes, go and see your doctor
  • The symptoms below are more likely to be caused by something far less serious than cancer, but they could be a sign of the disease
  • Spotting cancer early means treatment is more likely to be successful.
This list, in no special order, highlights some of the key symptoms to be aware of. But if you spot something that isn’t normal for you, get it checked out.
Breathlessness
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.
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 are experiencing heartburn or indigestion a lot, or if it is particularly painful, then you should see 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 after a few weeks should be checked out by your doctor.
Looser poo or pooing more often
Loose, frequent bowel motions are usually caused by stomach bugs or food poisoning, but if you have noticed a change to looser poo or pooing more often that has lasted 4-6 weeks or more, then it’s important to tell your doctor.
Difficulty swallowing
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 out.
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 after several weeks, even if it’s painless, a doctor needs to check it.
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.
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.