Signs & Symptoms

We all get unwell now and again, and most of the time the signs and symptoms we have are nothing to worry about. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. If something doesn’t go away, or you can’t explain it, it is always best to contact a doctor.

It’s totally normal to panic when you find a lump, but they can occur for all sorts of reasons. If you have a lump that doesn’t go away after a few weeks, it is really important that you speak to a doctor and get it checked out, just in case.

Lumps can be found in lots of places on your body, like your neck, under your armpits, on your chest or breasts, balls or in your groin.

Look out for other changes that can happen to a lump:

  • It getting bigger
  • It being painful, hot or red in colour
  • It is hard or doesn’t move a lot 
  • It feels like a swelling that doesn’t go down

What happens next?

If you speak to a doctor, they will look at your lump and might be able to tell you what is causing it in most cases. If they aren’t sure, they might refer you to a hospital for tests, where you might have a scan called an ultrasound, or a test called a biopsy, to take a sample of the lump.

Everyone’s weight can change from time to time, it could happen because of a stressful event or could be a result of an eating disorder. If you feel like you need support, charities like Beat are there to help you. 

If you don’t think the changes to your weight are due to anything you can think of, and you haven’t lost weight through diet or exercising, you should contact a doctor to talk to them more about it. 

Keep a lookout for other symptoms such as:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Change in your toilet habits
  • Feeling unwell a lot, or getting more infections 

What happens next?

There are several reasons why you might be losing weight, and your doctor will be able to look into these with you. This might involve further investigations to look into the problem, like a blood test.

Related cancers: lymphoma, leukemia, ovarian, bowel

We can all feel bloated from time to time, especially if you are constipated, or have trapped wind. It is also a very common symptom of a lot of conditions and illnesses, like irritable bowel syndrome or that your body doesn’t like certain foods (this is called a food intolerance). 

 

It’s important to speak to a doctor if your bloating doesn’t go away, and you have other symptoms such as:

  • Changes to your toilet habits 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Pelvic and/or stomach pain 
  • Feeling full all the time 

What happens next?

Your doctor will chat with you about your bloating, and any other symptoms you may have to try and understand what the problem could be. This might involve investigations like blood tests or a sample of your poo.

Related cancers: ovarian cancer

Most headaches will go away without you having to see a doctor, and might last up to a few hours. If you have a headache, there is a lot you can do at home to make your symptoms better, like ensuring you are drinking lots of water, taking breaks from using a computer and your phone, resting and relaxing, and taking medicine like paracetamol to relieve your pain. 

 

Headaches can be caused by things like a cold or the flu, stress, alcohol, not drinking enough water and problems with your eyesight.

But if you get headaches a lot, and you can’t do anything to help them, it might be time to see a doctor. Look out for other symptoms such as: 

  • A dull and constant headache
  • Seizures 
  • Feeling sick, or even being sick 
  • Feeling drowsy 
  • Memory problems or changes in your personality 
  • Problems with your vision
  • Problems with your speech

What happens next?

Your doctor will work with you to understand what could be causing your headaches, and if they can’t find a cause, you may be referred to a doctor who specialises in the brain for further tests, like a brain scan.

A sore throat is very common, and most of the time it isn’t anything that you need to worry about. It can get better on its own, and you can usually treat it at home without having to see a doctor. 

You might get a sore throat when you have a cold or the flu, but if you are finding that it doesn’t get better, or you have other symptoms, like a high temperature, or redness at the back of your mouth, you should speak to a doctor. 

In some cases, a sore throat that doesn’t go away can be a symptom of cancer. You should look out for any other symptoms like:

  • A painless lump or swelling in the front of the neck 
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Unexplained hoarseness that doesn’t get better 
  • Difficulty swallowing 

What happens next?

If you go to a doctor with a sore throat that doesn’t go away, they will work with you to understand the cause of it, and any treatment you might need. They will examine you, like looking into your mouth and throat, checking your neck, and can organise a blood test if they think you need one. 

Related cancers: thyroid cancer

Lots of people have moles. You might have been born with them, some might appear over your lifetime, and disappear too. But it is really important to keep a look out for changes to existing moles, or how new moles that appear look to you. If a mole looks different, you should always get it checked out by a doctor.

You should look out for:

  • Changes to its shape, it might look different one side to the other 
  • Change in size, like getting bigger or being raised up from your skin
  • Change in the colour, like getting darker or being two different colours 
  • If it starts to itch, crust, flake or bleed 

As well as checking your moles, there are other things you can do to prevent cancerous moles, by being careful in the sun. Want to know how? Find out here.

What happens next?

If you see a doctor, they will examine your mole and tell you if they think it is harmful to you. If it isn’t, they won’t usually remove it. If they think it is cancer, you will be referred to a hospital, usually within 2 weeks. You might have surgery to remove the mole. 

Sweating is really normal, and sweating during the night can happen too. This could be if your room is too hot, or your bedding is too thick. But if you wake up with your PJs and bed sheets completely soaked on a regular basis, you should speak to your doctor. 

Night sweats can be caused by several things, like medication you might be on, or menopause symptoms, anxiety or alcohol and drug use. But night sweats can be a sign of cancer too, so it is important to look out for other symptoms like sudden weight loss and always getting infections. 

What happens next?

It’s important to see your doctor if you get night sweats regularly and don’t know what the cause could be. They will talk to you about your symptoms, any medication you take, and lifestyle to try and find the underlying cause.

Related cancers:  leukemia, lymphoma

We all feel really tired from time to time, this could be down to long hours working, caffeine or distribution to your sleep. But when tiredness goes on for a long time, you should see a doctor.

 

You might be tired due to your lifestyle, like having too much caffeine, exercising too much or too little, and drinking a lot of alcohol. You might also feel tired from stress, or mental health problems like depression and anxiety. This is something your doctor can support you on so you can get help. 

Sometimes, extreme tiredness can be a sign of cancer. It might also be that you are experiencing other symptoms, such as:

 

  • Sudden weight loss 
  • Regularly getting infections 

What happens next?

You should speak to your doctor about extreme tiredness and any other symptoms you are having. They can help you work through the cause and if you need any further tests to figure out what the problem is. 

You should be checking your chest, regardless of your gender, every month. You can look at our advice on how to check here. 

If you find a lump in your boobs, pecs or armpit(s), it is usually nothing to worry about. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak to a doctor about it. 

But lumps aren’t the only changes you need to look out for, also check for:

 

  • Changes to your nipples, like discharge or inversion (when they go inwards)
  • A rash or changes to the feel of your skin 
  • Dimples (bits of skin that go inwards, like dimples you can get in your cheeks) 

What happens next?

Your doctor will examine your chest or breasts for any changes you have. If you feel more comfortable, you can ask to bring someone with you, or ask for a doctor of a certain gender. If they are unsure as to what is causing the changes, you might be referred to a clinic or hospital for further tests.

If you have balls, you should be checking them at least once a month. It is common for one testicle to be slightly bigger than the other, or one to hang lower than the other. They should be smooth, and firm but not hard to touch. You can look at our advice on how to check your balls here. 

There are several causes for changes to your balls, like finding a lump, but sometimes it is cancer. You should look out for:

  • A hard lump in one or both of your balls
  • Swelling in a ball, or one ball getting larger than it usually is 
  • A ball feeling more firm than it usually does 
  • Pain in one or both of your balls
  • Any other unusual differences between them both 

What happens next?

Your doctor will check the changes to your balls, and may be able to explain what they think the cause is. If you feel more comfortable, you can bring someone with you, or request for a doctor of a certain gender. 

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