37 Ways To Spot Cancer Symptoms And What To Do About It

37 Ways To Spot Cancer Symptoms And What To Do About It

By Metro UK on June 23, 2015
breasts mammogram

Delve into the murky puddle that is health forums for long enough and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were on your last legs.

But now the NHS has released new guidelines that make it easier to spot possible symptoms of 37 types of cancer, and tell you in clear terms what your doctor should do next.

As well as symptom information, the guidelines mean GPs and patients will be able to find out which tests are needed (if any) and how soon they should be done.

General symptoms to look out for

Your GP should check for cancer if you experience these symptoms (and they cannot be explained by anything else).

  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Severe or long-lasting tiredness, bleeding, fever or infection that is long‑lasting or keeps returning
  • Cough, shortness of breath and/or chest pain
  • Problems with movement and balance, your memory and thinking, or with pain and tiredness (ask your GP to assess you for problems with your nervous system)

While few symptoms like fatigue, abdominal pain and weight loss actually turn out to be cancer, it is hoped that the new guidelines will mean 500,000 more people are tested each year in the UK, saving up to 5,000 lives.

Exeter University’s Professor Willie Hamilton, who helped develop the guidelines, admitted that more lives could be saved if patients were sent for tests at the right times, but said that one of the difficulties of diagnosing was ‘identifying the patient who has cancer over all the other patients who don’t’.

Lumps, swelling and ulcers

See your doctor if you find a lump in any of the following areas of your body:

  • Your neck, your lip or the inside of your mouth, a red or red and white patch on the inside of your mouth, or a mouth ulcer that’s been there for more than three weeks
  • Your breast or armpit, whether you are male or female
  • Your abdomen, pelvis or groin
  • Your vagina, penis or testicles (go for regular smear tests and STI check-ups, even if you don’t have symptoms)
  • Your soft tissue (the supporting tissue of your body, including fat, muscles, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels) especially if the lump is getting bigger
Close-up of a woman's torso as she she checks her breast for lumps or breast cancer Thinkstock/
Checking for lumps regularly means cancer symptoms can be caught early (Picture: Thinkstock)

Groin, pelvis or abdominal problems

Regular smear tests and STI screenings can help avoid possible health problems in the future, even if you don’t have any symptoms yet.

Speak to your GP if you experience any of the following:

  • Pain or bloating in your abdomen that can’t be explained by anything else, especially if you have lost weight and are over 40
  • A lump in your abdomen, pelvis or groin
  • Indigestion, reflux, feeling or being sick, or vomiting blood (more information)
  • Bleeding from your bottom, diarrhoea, constipation or other changes to your bowel movements
  • Blood in your urine, pain when you urinate or other changes like finding it difficult to empty your bladder
  • Swelling or changes to the size, shape or feel of your testicles

Other possible symptoms of cancer

Speak to your GP if you experience any of the following symptoms – they may not indicate cancer but should be investigated to rule out anything serious:

  • Problems swallowing food or drink, or hoarseness in your throat if you are over 40
  • Jaundice, bruising or a skin rash of small red or purple spots (known as petechiae) or pallor (unusual paleness of the skin)
  • Back pain, bone pain or a fracture if you are over 60, especially if you have lost weight and the symptoms aren’t caused by anything else
  • New, large, changing or unusual looking moles
  • Skin lesions, which include damaged or injured patches of skin

For more information on the symptoms of cancer, read the full NHS guidelines or search the NHS symptom checker.


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