13 red flag cancer symptoms to absolutely check for

13 red flag cancer symptoms to absolutely check for

We all know that the earlier cancer is detected, the better the chances of survival. However, new research has found that half of UK adults with a possible cancer symptom do not contact their GP within six months.

A YouGov survey of 2,468 people for Cancer Research UK (CRUK cancerresearchuk.org) found that only 48% of those who had experienced a red flag symptom such as unexplained weight loss and a new or unusual lump contact your GP in half a year. .

“You might think that red flag symptoms like coughing up blood or unexplained bleeding are hard to ignore, but this research shows that many do,” says Dr Julie Sharp, head of health and patient engagement at CRUK.

She notes that people from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular face more barriers to seeking help, stressing: “Whether it’s a red flag symptom or not, if you notice a change in your health that’s unusual for you or that it won’t go away, contact your GP as soon as you can. Your doctor is there for you and wants to hear any questions.”

Not telling your doctor about unusual health changes can reduce your chances of an early cancer diagnosis. When diagnosed at stage one, the earliest stage, more than nine in 10 (92%) people survive bowel cancer for five years or more. It is one in 10 (10%) when diagnosed at stage four, the last stage.

Sharp says anyone who has any of the following symptoms should get them checked out by a doctor right away. He stresses that in most cases it won’t be cancer, but if it is, catching it early can make a real difference and possibly save your life.

1. Unexplained pain

Pain is a sign that something is wrong, and while it’s easy to hope it goes away, if it persists, it’s important to get it checked out. “As we get older, it’s more common to experience aches and pains,” says Sharp. “But unexplained pain could be a sign of something more serious.”

2. Intense night sweats

Sharp says there are many reasons why you might sweat at night, including infections, certain medications, or going through menopause. However, heavy, heavy night sweats can also be a sign of various cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma.


3. Unexplained weight loss

There are, of course, many reasons for unexplained weight loss other than cancer, including bowel and thyroid problems. But Sharp says that while small changes in weight over time are normal, if you lose a noticeable amount of weight without trying, you should tell your doctor.

4. Unusual lumps or swelling

Lumps are one of the most common symptoms of cancer, and while they can be caused by many less serious problems like an injury, Sharp stresses that persistent lumps or swelling anywhere on the body, such as the neck, armpit , the stomach, the groin. , chest, chest or testicle, should be taken seriously.

5. Fatigue

Fatigue can, of course, be caused by many things, including stress, autoimmune problems, or simply having trouble sleeping. “But if you’re feeling tired for no apparent reason, it could be a sign that something’s wrong,” says Sharp.

6. Unexplained bleeding

Unexplained bleeding in your poop, stool or vomit, coughing up blood, or any unexplained vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause should be checked out by a doctor, says Sharp, who explains that the blood may appear red, brown, or black. . This bleeding can often be caused by something much less serious than cancer, but you should always let your doctor know, she stresses.


7. Skin changes

These may include a sore that won’t heal, a new mole, or changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole, as well as crusting, itching, or bleeding. See what doctors call the ABCDE checklist to help you spot key changes. Also, Sharp says that any unusual changes in a patch of skin or a nail should be checked by a doctor.

8. Digestive and food problems

Problems that include difficulty swallowing, unusual heartburn or indigestion, or loss of appetite can be red flag symptoms of cancer, says Sharp, although they can also be caused by many other things, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease ( GERD), stomach ulcers or simply. eating a spicy meal. But trouble swallowing that doesn’t go away can be a sign of head and neck cancer, and persistent indigestion that can’t be explained could be a sign of a number of cancers, including pancreatic, stomach and esophagus

Loss of appetite is also a sign of many different cancers, and Sharp says that “loss of appetite can happen for many different reasons—talk to your doctor if you’ve noticed that you’re not as hungry as usual and it’s not getting better.” .

9. Hoarse voice, cough or shortness of breath

It’s very common to have a hoarse voice if you’ve had a cold, but the NHS says if you’re hoarse for more than three weeks you should see a doctor as it’s a possible sign of throat cancer. Similarly, Sharp says that if you have an unexplained cough that doesn’t go away within a few weeks or gets worse, it could be a sign of lung cancer, and if you’re more short of breath than usual, tell your doctor, while it could be related to an infection or other heart or lung problems, it could be a sign of cancer.

10. Bathroom changes

Sharp says if you experience a change in bowel habits, such as constipation, loose stools, or poop more often, if you have bowel problems such as needing to go more often or with urgency, experience pain in the time to babble or not being able to go when you need to, or if there is blood in your little one’s poo, you should see a doctor. While these symptoms could be a sign of bowel or bladder cancer, they could easily be something much less serious. Sharp says, “All of these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer, but it’s best to get them checked out.”

12. Persistent mouth ulcer

Although mouth ulcers are common, especially when you’re down, they usually get better in about two weeks. But Sharp says that an ulcer or a red or white patch that doesn’t heal after three weeks should be reported to your doctor or dentist.

11. Unusual breast changes

It’s not just a lump that can be a symptom of breast cancer – watch for any changes in the size, shape or feel of the breast, or any skin changes, redness or pain in the breast. Sharp says fluid, which may be blood-stained, seeping from the nipple could also be a sign of cancer.

13. Persistent swelling

Bloating is another very common symptom and usually not serious. However, while Sharp says it’s common to experience a bloated or bloated belly that comes and goes, if you feel bloated most days, even if it’s intermittent, talk to your doctor. Swelling can be a sign of various cancers, but especially ovarian.

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