How to spot cancer early

Unexplained changes

A lump or swelling

Check your whole body - not just your testicles.

Unexplained changes such as a lump or swelling anywhere on your body

Bleeding that is not normal for you

If you cough up blood or notice it in your pee or poo, see your doctor.

Bleeding that is not normal for you

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.

Weight loss not related to a diet might be a sign of something serious

Pain that does not go away

If you feel pain for more than 4 weeks that you cannot explain, talk to your doctor about it.You’re more likely to survive cancer if you spot it early. But do you know what to look out for?

Pain that does not go away after 4 weeks that you can't explain

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 3 weeks, especially if you are a smoker or ex-smoker.

A cough that doesn't go away or a change in voice

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.

A spot, wart or sore that doesn't go away could be a sign of something serious


If bloating does not go away within a few weeks talk to your doctor about it.

Bloating that doesn't go away within a few weeks

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.

Difficulty swallowing or consistent, painful heartburn could be a sign of something serious

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.

A mouth or tongue ulcer or sore that doesn't heal

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 change in your bowel habits

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.

Changes to moles

Check yourself

Check yourself regularly so that you’re more likely to notice any changes.

Get screened

Screening means testing for cancer when you have no symptoms. Screening is a great way to spot cancer early and give yourself the best chance of getting cured. Free screening for bowel cancer (BowelScreen) is available for men (and women) aged 60–69.

Date Last Reviewed: 
Tuesday, June 6, 2017