Key symptoms of cancer

Parents with their kids walk out of a school at afternoon pick up time. Overlay text reads 'Cancer doesn't wait for COVID-19.'

Cancer and other illnesses can cause symptoms. Symptoms are changes that you notice in your body, such as the sudden appearance of a lump, a persistent cough, or a change to your usual bowel habits.

Symptoms can be caused by many diseases, not just cancer, but it is important to see your GP so they can investigate.

Why do symptoms occur?

Cancer can affect the body in several different ways. It can cause a lump or swelling, press on tissues or organs and stop them from functioning properly, and produce substances that change how the body works.

A person with cancer may notice some of these changes. For example, a lump can become big enough to see or feel, or a cancer can press against a nerve and cause pain.

Every cancer is different. Some cancer causes symptoms at an early stage. Others do not cause any symptoms until they have been growing for a long time.

What are the key symptoms of cancer?

Key symptoms of cancer can include:

Small weight changes over time are quite normal. But if you lose a noticeable amount of weight without trying, speak with your doctor.

Fatigue or extreme tiredness that does not improve with rest can be an early sign of cancer. There are several underlying causes of fatigue or tiredness and many of them are not cancer related.

If you are concerned about the severity of your tiredness, book an appointment with your doctor.

Pain is one way our bodies tell us that something is wrong. As we get older, it is more common to experience aches and pains. But if you have unexplained, ongoing pain, or pain that comes and goes, see your doctor to investigate further.

When you have a fever, your body temperature rises above 37.5C (99.5F). This usually means there is something wrong somewhere in your body. Fever can occur in people with all types of cancers, but can also be a sign of non-cancer related illnesses.

The earlier an infection or fever is treated, the less likely that you will have more serious complications. It is very important to find out what is causing the fever so that it can be treated quickly and in the best possible way.

Persistent lumps or swelling in any part of your body should be taken seriously. That includes any lumps in the neck, armpit, stomach, groin, chest, breast or testicle. Book an appointment with your GP to have it checked out.

Cancer doesn't wait for COVID-19

Finding cancer early saves lives. That is why it is important to stay aware of the symptoms of cancer – even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are concerned you are showing cancer symptoms, book an appointment with your GP today.

Want to know more about symptoms of specific cancer types?