Nurse and patient reviewing a computer screenOne in two people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. In the UK, the four most common types of cancer are:

  • breast cancer
  • lung cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • bowel cancer

There are more than 200 different types of cancer, and each is diagnosed and treated in a particular way.

Changes to your body's normal processes or unusual, unexplained symptoms can sometimes be an early sign of cancer so it is important to make a GP appointment to have these checked out.

Symptoms that you should get checked by a doctor include:

  • a lump that suddenly appears on your body;
  • unexplained bleeding;
  • changes to your bowel habits.

In many cases your symptoms may not be related to cancer and will be caused by other, non-cancerous health conditions. It is important to be sure either way as the earlier cancer can be picked up, the higher the chance of successful treatment.

Read more about the signs and symptoms of cancer on the NHS England website.

It can be daunting, but is important to share all the details of your concern with your GP so that they can assess you. Cancer Research UK has created a helpful guide to make the most of your appointment.

There is a range of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral for a possible cancer so you may be sent on to a specialist for tests. You should not have to wait more than two weeks to see a specialist if your GP suspects you have cancer and urgently refers you.

A new video from South East London Cancer Alliance (SELCA) patients shares practical tips on how to overcome some of the concerns and make the best of your virtual consultations. Watch the video here.

We work in partnership across south east London, so you will be referred to a hospital or clinic that can best meet your needs. More detail can be found on their websites:

If you have vague or unexplained symptoms you may be referred to the Rapid Diagnostic Clinic at Guy’s Hospital to test for a range of cancers.

Most tests are carried out at an outpatient visit to the hospital or clinic. Many involve a short appointment with a specialist. You may have a range of tests at the same appointment.

Getting a diagnosis can be an overwhelming time but there is plenty of help and support available to you, your friends, family and carers.

In cases where cancer has been confirmed, you should not have to wait more than 31 days from the decision to treat to the start of treatment. Your healthcare team will work with you to personalise your care – so that you have more choice and control based on what matters to you.

Accessibility tools

Return to header