Can you spot the signs and symptoms of cancer?

Early diagnosis saves lives, so being able to spot the signs and symptoms of cancer in teenagers and young adults is really important.

Common symptoms of cancer

Lots of the most common symptoms of cancer in teenagers and young adults are also symptoms of other everyday illnesses, so it's easy to miss them.

  • Aches and pains that don't go away, which might feel worse at night or after exercise
  • Unexplained lumps, bruises and swellings (which may or may not be painful)
  • Reduced movement, numbing, tingling or weakness
  • A new, strange-looking mole, a dark area of skin that was not there before, or a change in a mole or freckle you already have
  • Finding it difficult to pee, or to control when you need to pee (wetting yourself), or peeing more often than usual
  • Blood in your pee or poo
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Confusion, or changes in behaviour, thinking or personality
  • Slow growth or development

Having any of these symptoms doesn't automatically mean you might have cancer. But if you've been feeling unwell for a while, or your symptoms don't get better as quickly as you think they should, it's always worth getting checked out.

"If you're getting an ache or have a lump somewhere that's not meant to be there, and it's stayed there for a time, even if it's two or three weeks, get in contact with your GP and make sure you see your doctor. "

Matteus, diagnosed with leukaemia aged 24

The most common cancers in teenagers and young adults in the UK

Females Males
Carcinomas (breast, cervix, skin, thyroid, bowel) Testicular cancer
Lymphomas Lymphomas
Malignant melanoma Brain and spinal tumours
Brain and spinal tumours Leukaemia
Leukaemia Carcinomas (bowel, skin, thyroid)

Learn more about the different types of cancer that can affect teenagers and young adults

If you're worried, visit your GP!

Lots of teenagers and young people find it embarrassing to go to the GP, especially when they're worried about things like testicular cancer or breast cancer, or they feel like they're going to waste their GP's time.

If you're worried, you should absolutely book an appointment as soon as possible and talk through your concerns.

If it's not cancer, then great! You can stop worrying and carry on with your life. But if it does turn out to be cancer, then getting the proper tests done and treatments started early could make a huge difference.

"It’s so important that if you notice anything wrong, or you think you have symptoms of cancer, then go straight to a doctor. It’s something that I wished I had done. Even if it’s in an embarrassing area, or you don’t want to worry anybody."

Ellie, diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma aged 14.