Cancer can cause a number of signs and symptoms - or it can cause none at all. When signs or symptoms do appear, they’re dependent on the area that’s been affected, how large the cancer is as well as the effect it has on the organs or tissues [1].

As early treatment is crucial when treating cancer, it’s important to keep in mind some of the most general early signs of cancer that may indicate that something may not be right, these include:

  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Unexplained pain
  • Mouth or tongue ulcer
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Skin changes
  • Voice changes

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Early signs and symptoms of cancer

As there are over 200 different types of cancer, each type can cause a number of different symptoms. With that said, there are some common and general indicators associated with cancer that are worth knowing more about.

It’s important to remember that while these signs are not a direct indicator of cancer and may be a result of something less serious, it’s important to follow up with a healthcare provider if you notice any of the following symptoms.

Abnormal bleeding

If you have been coughing up blood, have noticed blood in your stool or are experiencing unexplained vaginal bleeding, it’s important to check in with your doctor.

Weight loss

While weight fluctuation is completely normal, a dramatic drop in weight, without the help of diet or exercise, is worth knowing more about.

Unexplained pain

If you’re experiencing persistent muscle or joint pain that may affect one specific area of the body, make some time to speak with your healthcare provider.

Mouth or tongue ulcer

According to the NHS, a mouth or tongue ulcer that has lasted several weeks is one of the most common symptoms of mouth cancer [2]. As are lumps in the mouth that don’t seem to heal.

Change in bowel habits

A change in the consistency or your stool, diarrhea, constipation or blood in your stool are all possible indicators of colon cancer [3].

Skin changes

Make a habit of checking in on your skin every so often. Some of the key things to keep an eye out for are new moles or unusual changes to existing moles such as a change in colour, shape or size.

Voice changes

A persistent cough, a slight change in your voice or shortness of breath are some of the most common symptoms of lung cancer [4].

How to spot cancer early

One of the most reliable ways to spot cancer early is through a screening test. Screening tests can detect cancer before any of the above symptoms may even begin to show in your body and are recommended for anyone who may be at high risk. Some general risks for cancer include:

  • Older age
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Specific viral infections
  • Obesity

When cancer is spotted in its early stages, treatment is more likely to be successful. It’s important to note that screening is recommended for people who have no symptoms at all. If you’re experiencing signs or symptoms, it’s important to speak with your doctor.

See also: HIV and Cancer: What’s the Connection?

LetsGetChecked has a range of at-home lab tests which can help in screening for cancer, these include:

Bowel Cancer Screening Test
PSA Test
HPV Test

Results for each test are available online within 5 days and our dedicated medical team will offer support from the beginning of the process to the very end and will answer any questions you may have.

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  1. Irish Cancer Society. How to Spot Cancer Early. Online:
  2. NHS. Mouth Cancer. Online:, 2019
  3. Mayo Clinic. Colon Cancer. Online:, 2019
  4. NHS. Lung Cancer. Online:, 2019