Early Warning Signs Of Cancer

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Cancer awareness aims to make everyone more aware of the signs and symptoms of various cancers. It also aims to encourage regular screening at the prescribed intervals. These routine screenings could include pap smears, mammograms, stool samples or prostate exams. By attending routine screenings more patients can be diagnosed at an early stage and are more likely to be cured.

Different cancers produce different symptoms and some symptoms are specific to either men or women. If you experience unusual symptoms that last for more than a few weeks, it is advisable to consult your doctor.

Persistent Fever Or Infections

Having ongoing fevers or infections can indicate an immune system that has been affected by cancer. Cancers most likely to cause fevers include lymphoma, leukaemia, kidney cancer, liver cancer and soft tissue sarcoma.

Unexplained Weight Loss

Slight weight fluctuations are normal but unexplained and ongoing weight loss or loss of appetite may be a symptom of cancer. Weight loss is often seen in cases where the cancer has already spread. Unexplained weight loss is often the first noticeable symptom of cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, and lungs.


Feeling tired and unwell for an extended period could be a symptom of cancer. Cancer uses your body’s nutrients as fuel to grow and this nutrient deficiency can cause extreme fatigue. Feeling constant fatigue is a common early warning sign of leukaemia or lymphoma.

Changes In Bathroom Habits

Significant changes in your bathroom habits can indicate bowel, prostate, bladder or stomach cancer, among other cancers. Warning signs include stomach discomfort, black or red blood in your faeces, unexplained diarrhoea or constipation, frequent urination and blood in your urine.

Oral Changes

Sores, lesions (cuts) or painful areas in your mouth that do not heal after a couple of weeks can indicate various oral cancers. Smoking and heavy drinking are major risk factors for oral cancers.

Changes to look out for include loose teeth, gums that do not heal after a tooth extraction, white or red patches on the inside of your mouth or tongue, persistent numbness or an odd feeling on your lips or tongue. These can all be early signs of cancer that require further investigation.

It is vital to have persistent oral symptoms investigated as oral cancer that is left untreated can spread throughout your mouth and throat to other areas of your head and neck. 

Stomach Or Back Pain

Persistent pelvic pain can be a sign of cancer in any of the abdominal organs including the bowel, pancreas, stomach, cervix, uterus, or ovaries. Ongoing bloating and indigestion can also be a sign of cancer.

When cancer starts to grow in one of the abdominal organs it can put pressure on other nearby organs, causing pain. 

Skin Changes

Having persistently itchy or yellow skin could be a sign of cancer. Most people with pancreatic cancer will develop jaundice as one of their first symptoms. Jaundice is caused by the build-up of bilirubin, a substance made in the liver, which causes your eyes or skin to become yellowish in colour.

The first melanoma signs and symptoms are often a change in an existing mole or the development of a new pigmented or unusual-looking growth on your skin.

An estimated 80% of melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK are preventable. This is because the two main causes of skin cancer are exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and using UV tanning beds.

Unusual Bleeding Or Discharge

Having persistent unusual bleeding or discharge may be a sign of cancer and should be investigated by your doctor. This could include blood in your urine, vaginal bleeding between periods, vaginal bleeding a year or more after the onset of menopause, blood in your vomit, blood when coughing or bleeding from your bottom.

It is common for women to have irregular periods or period cramps but unusual or persistent changes in your menstrual cycle can be a sign of cervical, uterine or ovarian cancer.

Coughing up blood, even if only in small amounts, could be a sign of lung cancer or stomach cancer while having blood in your stool could be a sign of either bowel cancer or stomach cancer.

Breast Changes

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in UK women, accounting for 30% of all female cases. Research indicates that over 25% of women do not regularly check their breasts for changes. Regular breast checking is vital to avoid the development of undetected breast cancer.

The most common symptoms of breast cancer include a lump or thickening in your breast or armpit, a change in the size or shape of your breast, discolouring, changes around the nipple and unusual discharge.

Chronic Coughing

Lung cancer accounts for around 13% of all new cancer cases in the UK. Smoking tobacco is the cause of most lung cancers. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are a cough that does not go away after a few weeks, a long-standing cough that gets worse, hoarseness and coughing up blood (even a small amount).

Difficulty Swallowing

Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) is often the first symptom of cancer that develops in the oesophagus. It can feel as if food is getting stuck in your throat or chest and can even cause choking. If you have the sensation that food is getting stuck in your throat or you have trouble swallowing for more than two weeks, this can be a sign of throat, lung or stomach cancer.

Chronic Headache

A headache that lasts more than two weeks and does not respond to painkillers can be caused by a brain tumour. A brain tumour can cause swelling in the brain that increases pressure in the head and leads to headaches.

Early Detection Saves Lives

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of various cancers is crucial for early detection and improved chances of successful treatment. Prompt medical evaluation and appropriate follow-up can help detect and manage cancer effectively, potentially leading to better outcomes and increased chances of a cure.


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