Common signs & symptoms

When cancer's found at an early stage, treatment is often easier and more likely to be successful.

If you have any of these signs or symptoms for more than four weeks, it’s important to get them checked out.  It doesn’t mean you’ve got cancer – often they turn out to be something less serious, but it’s important to tell your doctor.

Common signs and symptoms of cancer are:


Coughing up blood

If you’ve coughed up blood on any occasion, no matter how much or what colour, make an appointment to tell your doctor straight away.  It may be nothing to worry about but it could be a sign of lung cancer.

Many people think they would go to their doctor if they noticed something as serious as coughing up blood, but the truth is many people don’t.  Some think they haven’t coughed up enough to worry about. Or they are worried about what the doctor might find.  If you notice any blood when you cough, no matter how much or what colour, tell your doctor.

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 can be really important.

^ Back to top


A cough or croaky voice

A cough and croaky voice are common symptoms of a cold or the flu.  They often go away after a week or so and usually aren’t signs of anything serious. But if they last for longer than four weeks, if you cough up blood, or if an existing cough changes or gets worse, you should tell your doctor.  This is particularly important if you smoke, even if you have given up, as you are more likely to get lung diseases.

^ Back to top


Becoming more short of breath

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 most of the time, make an appointment to tell your doctor because it could be a sign of lung cancer.

People often put breathlessness (being short of breath) down to getting older.  But if you or anyone else has noticed that you’re more out of breath than usual, 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 being treated 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 if you find you’re more out of breath than usual.

^ Back to top


Blood in your pee

If you’ve noticed blood in your pee on any occasion, no matter how much or what colour, make an appointment to tell your doctor straight away.  It may be nothing to worry about but it could be a sign of prostate cancer.  The most common causes of blood in your pee are urinary tract or bladder infections.  But it could be a sign of a more serious condition such as prostate or bladder cancer, so the best thing to do is to tell your doctor.

^ Back to top

 

Blood in your poo

Blood in your poo should always be reported to your doctor.  Usually it’s not cancer and can be treated quickly and easily.  The most common cause of blood in your poo is piles (haemorrhoids).  Piles are caused by straining when going to the toilet.  But blood in your poo can be a symptom of bowel cancer, so it’s very important to tell your doctor and get it checked out.

^ Back to top


Problems peeing

As men get older they often have problems peeing (passing urine).  They may find they need to pee 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 (known as BPH, or benign prostate hyperplasia).  Less commonly, these symptoms can be caused by prostate cancer.  If you’re having any of these problems, you should tell your doctor.

For women, infections are the most common cause of pain and difficulty peeing.  But needing to pee urgently or more often than usual should always be checked out by your doctor.

^ Back to top


Looser poo (diarrhoea)

Gastro and food poisoning are the most usual causes of loose, frequent poo (diarrhoea).  This doesn’t usually last long, and should go away within a few days.  If you have noticed a change in your bowel habits lasting more than four weeks, it could be a more serious bowel problem.  Changes in your bowel habits can include a change in the time and/or how often you poo, or a change in how you go – straining to go to the toilet (constipation) and/or looser poo (diarrhoea).  It is important that you tell your doctor and get it checked out.

Most bowel cancers are found in people, over the age of 50.  If you’re younger, bowel changes are likely to be caused by other medical conditions.  But if you have noticed any lasting changes to your bowel habits, no matter what your age you should tell your doctor and get them checked.

^ Back to top


An unusual lump or swelling anywhere on your body

Many men know that any unusual lump in their testicles should be checked out.  And women are generally aware that they should tell their doctor about an unusual breast lump.

But lumps or swellings in other parts of the body should also be taken seriously, especially if they persist (are there for more than four weeks).  This includes lumps and swellings in your neck, armpit, abdomen (tummy), groin (at the top of your legs) or chest area.

If these symptoms last for four weeks or more, it’s important to tell your doctor and get them checked out.  A good time to notice unusual lumps and bumps is in the bath or shower.

^ Back to top


Unexplained weight loss

Small weight changes over time are quite normal.  But if you have noticeably lost weight without dieting, it is important that you tell your doctor.  Even if you have been dieting in the past, you should still tell you doctor about any major weight loss.

^ Back to top


Changes in a spot on your skin

Becoming familiar with the look of your skin can help you find changes that might be a skin cancer. Look for crusty, non-healing sores; small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour; new spots or freckles; or any moles that change colour, thickness or shape over a period of weeks to months, especially moles that are dark brown to black, red or blue-black in colour.

^ Back to top

Find out more about:

^ Back to top