Know the signs of cancer

You are more likely to survive cancer if you spot it at an early stage. Take time today to check your body for changes that could be cancer. Talk to your doctor if you notice anything unusual.

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The main changes to look for include changes that are:

Unexplained changes

  • A lump or swelling
    Make sure to check your whole body, not just your testicles or breasts.
  • Bleeding that is not normal for you
    Coughing up blood or noticing it in your urine or bowel motion is not normal. Neither is bleeding from your vagina between periods, after sex or after the menopause.
  • Weight loss
    It is normal to see small weight changes over time. But a big weight loss, not related to dieting, may be a sign of something more serious.
  • Pain that does not go away
    If you feel pain for more than four weeks that you cannot explain, talk to your doctor about it.

Persistent changes

  • A cough, changes in your voice or feeling short of breath
    Speak to your doctor if you have any of these problems for more than three weeks, especially if you are a smoker or ex-smoker.
  • A sore that does not heal
    If a spot, wart or sore does not heal in a few weeks, get it checked by your doctor, even if it is painless.
  • Difficulty swallowing, indigestion or heartburn
    It is not normal to have indigestion or heartburn  that happens a lot or is very painful. Difficulty swallowing is not normal either. Get it checked by your doctor.
  • Bloating
    If bloating does not go away within a few weeks talk to your doctor about it.
  • Mouth or tongue ulcer
    Having a mouth or tongue ulcer for three weeks or more is not normal and needs to be checked by your doctor or dentist.

Unusual changes

  • A change in your bowel or bladder habits
    If you have constipation, diarrhoea or problems passing urine for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor.
  • A new mole or change to an existing mole
    Get into the habit of checking your skin every month for new moles. Also watch for changes in colour, shape and size of existing moles.
  • Any change in your breast
    Get into the habit of looking at and feeling your breasts for changes in the shape, size, nipples and skin. Also watch for pain in one breast.

If you notice any other unusual change in how your body works, talk to your doctor. The chances are it will not be cancer. But getting it checked is not wasting anyone’s time. It could save your life.


Download our new leaflet on the signs of cancer.

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Learn more about the signs for the following cancers:

More information on early signs of other cancers

Date Last Reviewed: 
Wednesday, January 28, 2015