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Spotting cancer early saves lives

About cancer

Cancer is a condition that can start when one or more of the cells in your body begin to grow and multiply uncontrollably, resulting in a growth called a tumour. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue in the part of the body where they arise (the ‘primary’ site) and can then spread to other organs (‘secondary’ sites). There are more than 200 different types of cancer, and each is diagnosed and treated in a specific way.

More than one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. In the UK, the four most common types of cancer are:

  • Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60
  • Breast cancer around one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime
  • Cervical cancer is one of the 20 most common cancers and around 3,200 women in the UK are diagnosed every year
  • Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer. Around 44,500 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK
  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year.

Spotting signs of cancer

If you notice any changes to your body’s normal processes or any unusual, unexplained symptoms, have it checked by a doctor as it can sometimes be an early sign of cancer. Symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor include:

  • a lump that suddenly appears on your body
  • unexplained bleeding including blood in your poo or urine
  • changes to your bowel habits  e.g. looser poo or pooing more often
  • unusual breast changes
  • persistent cough
  • breathlessness, croaky voice or hoarseness
  • persistent heartburn, indigestion or bloating
  • difficulty swallowing
  • unexplained weight loss
  • unexplained pain or ache

It is important to know your body and notice a change which isn’t normal for you.

Worried about cancer symptoms during the pandemic?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have noticed that not as many people are seeking help and advice from their doctor about any unusual symptoms they might be experiencing that could be cancer. Doctors and GP practices are continuing to work, so if you are worried about any unusual symptoms you may be experiencing that could be cancer, please contact your doctor. Watch the video below to hear about how GPs continue to support all patients.

To watch this video in another language, click on the links below.

Arabic                                        Bengali                           Chinese

Gujarati                                      Hindi                              Polish

Portuguese                               Punjabi                            Romanian

Somali                                       Turkish                             Urdu


More information

Cancer Research UK
Macmillan Cancer Support

Why spotting cancer early is important

Why spotting cancer early is important

Reducing your risk of cancer

Reducing your risk of cancer

Cancer screening

Cancer screening

Cancer treatment

Cancer treatment