Spotting cancer symptoms early is crucial to improving chances of survival. A large study in 2013 showed that the UK and Ireland have a lower cancer survival rate than their European counterparts. The researchers put this down to delays in both diagnosis and the use of diagnostic tests.
In response to this, in June 2015 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published updated guidelines which focused on the signs and symptoms of 37 different cancers that people might go to their doctors with, so that the right tests could be performed faster.
Some symptoms that are caused by cancer affect a particular part of the body, others are more general, like weight loss and tiredness. Many other illnesses that are much less serious and more common than cancer, can cause the same type of symptoms thus making it difficult for healthcare professionals to spot cancer.
The NICE recommendations are intended to make it easier for GPs to make decisions about when to carry out tests or refer people to specialists. The symptoms are organised by the area of the body in which they are found with a section included for more general symptoms.
Mouth, throat and neck cancer symptoms
- Lumps in your neck
- Problems swallowing
- Lumps, ulcers or other problems in your mouth or lips
Breast and armpits cancer symptoms
- Lumps or changes in your breasts (in women or men)
- Lumps in your armpits
Chest cancer symptoms
- Problems with your chest and lungs including a cough, shortness of breath & chest pain
Abdomen, stomach, bowels and bottom symptoms
- Lumps or swelling in your abdomen
- Pain or bloating in your abdomen
- Indigestion, reflux, feeling or being sick or vomiting blood
- Problems with your bottom or bowel movements
Back and bones symptoms
- Back pain and loss of weight
- Bone pain or a fracture not caused by an accident
Groin and pelvis symptoms
- Problems with urinating or blood in your urine
- Lumps or pain in your pelvis
- Lumps in your groin
- Problems with your vagina, vulva or cervix
- Problems with your penis, testicles or getting an erection
Skin and soft tissue symptoms
- Bruising, rash or unusual paleness
- Skin lesions including damaged patches of skin or changing moles
- Soft tissue lumps
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Severe tiredness
- Fever or infection that is long-lasting or keeps returning
Follow the link below for a more detailed look at the possible diagnostic tests and investigations which may be offered to you if your GP is concerned about any of your symptoms.
But bear in mind that being referred to a specialist does not mean that you have cancer. Very few people who are referred to a specialist actually have cancer. However, it is important that you are checked quickly to find out. If you do have cancer, spotting it early can mean treatment is easier and more likely to be successful.
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