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Cancer health centre

14 cancer symptoms women ignore

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

There are over 200 different types of cancer and many possible signs and symptoms. It's a good idea to get to know your body and what's normal for you, to help you spot any unusual or persistent changes that could be signs of cancer.

"In general, you should see your GP about any changes in your body that aren't normal for you or don't go away," says Dr Claire Knight, health information manager at Cancer Research UK. "Most symptoms end up being something far less serious, but it's better to get it checked."

Depending on the situation, the GP might reassure you that there's nothing to worry about, ask you to come back if things haven't got better, or they may refer you for tests to find out more.

"Anyone can develop cancer, but it's more common as we get older," says Dr Knight. "About 9 in 10 cases of cancer are in the over 50s."

Here is a list of some of the key signs and symptoms of cancer women tend to ignore. If you develop one of these symptoms, it doesn't usually mean you've got cancer, but it's important to have it investigated.

1: An unusual lump or swelling anywhere on your body

Most women are aware that an unusual breast lump is something they should see a GP about but persistent lumps or swellings in other parts of the body should also be taken seriously. It probably won't be cancer, but it's best to get it checked. "Cancer survival is better when the disease is diagnosed at an early stage," says Dr Knight.

2: Unusual breast changes

When it comes to your breasts, lumps aren't the only changes that should be reported to your GP. Also look for any change in the size, shape or feel of a breast, a change to the skin texture, redness, a nipple change, or pain in the breast.

If you have breast changes, expect your GP to take a careful history, examine the breast and possibly refer you to a specialist breast clinic where you'll have tests that may include a mammogram, ultrasound, MRI and perhaps a biopsy.

3: A change in size, shape or colour of a mole

Most moles are harmless, but new moles, ones that change in size, shape or colour over weeks or months, or ones that are crusty, bleed or ooze, need medical advice. Keep an eye on your skin and look for changes. "Ask your partner or a friend to check areas you can't see, such as your back," says Dr Knight. "This is particularly important if you have fair, freckly or moley skin that tends to burn easily, or if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer."

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