Some form of cancer will develop in more than one in three people in the UK during their lifetime, according to the NHS. Many people are aware of some of the symptoms, but with over 200 types of cancer it’s impossible to know every single one. Some symptoms of cancer may seem obvious, like the development of a lump that is growing in size, but worryingly many symptoms can be easily confused with less serious conditions. Confusing cancer symptoms with other problems can put many people off seeing their GP, allowing the cancer to advance and treatment to become more difficult.
The NHS warns on paying attention to any unexplained changes to your body and visiting your doctor if they don’t improve.
While they may not necessarily signify cancer, it’s best to get them checked out just in case. Here are four common symptoms of cancer which could be overlooked:
Persistent heartburn or indigestion
Most of the time heartburn and indigestion are nothing to be concerned about and simply occur after eating certain foods.
However, if you experience heartburn or indigestion a lot, or it is particularly painful, it could be a sign of cancers including stomach cancer and oesophageal cancer.
Stomach bloating often occurs after eating a big meal, or can be related to digestion problems such as IBS.
But if you feel bloated on most days, even if it comes and goes, see a doctor as it could be a sign of cancers including stomach cancer and bowel cancer.
Changes in bowel habits
Changes in bowel habits can be caused by stomach bugs or food poisoning, leading to diarrhoea or just the need to use the toilet more.
However, if these changes are persistent or come alongside blood in the stools, they could be a sign of bowel cancer – so see a GP.
Unexplained weight loss
Small weight changes over time are quite normal, but if you unintentionally lose a noticeable amount of weight over a couple of months, see your doctor.
Unexplained weight loss is a symptom of a whole host of types of cancer.
“It’s important to be aware of any unexplained changes to your body, such as the sudden appearance of a lump, blood in your urine, or a change to your usual bowel habits,” said the NHS.
“These symptoms are often caused by other, non-cancerous illnesses, but it’s important to see your GP so they can investigate.”