Do I have cancer?

Most people worry about their health at some time. Find support and information if you are worried you might have cancer.

I am worried about cancer symptoms

A symptom is a change in how you feel or how your body works. Having a symptom or symptoms tells you that something is not right. Different illnesses cause different symptoms. For example, a common cold can cause symptoms such as a sore throat and a runny nose.

Different cancers can cause different symptoms. Having a symptom does not mean you have a cancer, but the symptom could be something that needs treatment.

It is a good idea to get any symptoms that are ongoing, unexplained or unusual for you checked by your GP. You may need tests or to see a specialist doctor to find out what is causing your symptoms. If it is cancer, the earlier it is found, the more likely it is to be cured.

You can read more about the signs and symptoms of cancer.

Related pages

Booklets and resources

What is cancer screening?

Sometimes, cancer is found through cancer screening. This means using tests to find people who may:

  • have an early stage cancer
  • need treatment or monitoring to prevent cancer developing.

If a screening test finds cancer, it is usually at an early stage, so treatment is more likely to be successful.

The UK has 3 cancer screening programmes.

  • Breast cancer screening

    Breast screening can help find a breast cancer early, before you notice symptoms. It is offered to anyone who is registered as female with their GP and aged between 50 and 70.

  • Cervical cancer screening

    Cervical screening is a way of preventing cervical cancer. It looks at the cervix for changes that could become cancer if not treated. It is offered to anyone who is registered as female with their GP and aged between 25 and 64.

  • Bowel cancer screening

    Bowel screening aims to find bowel cancer early, before symptoms develop. If you are registered with a GP, you will be offered your first home screening bowel test when you are aged between 50 and 60. The exact age depends on which UK country you live in. 

In England, there are plans to introduce screening for lung cancer in people aged between 55 to 74 and who are at high risk of developing lung cancer. This is already happening in some parts of the country.

Booklets and resources

Cancer runs in my family

It may seem that nearly everyone in your family has been affected by cancer. You may worry that you are likely to get it too.

There are families where people may have a higher risk of developing a certain type of cancer. This is because there is a gene change (gene variant) that can be passed from parent to child. This is called an inherited gene variant. But this only accounts for about 5-10% (5 to 10 in every 100) of all cancers.

You can find out more in our information about genetics and cancer risk.

How can I reduce my risk of cancer?

You cannot reduce your risk of cancer completely. But there are things you can do to lower your risk and improve your general health. This includes:

  • not smoking
  • having a healthy diet
  • keeping to a healthy weight
  • being physically active
  • protecting your skin from the sun
  • limiting how much alcohol you drink.

You can read more about lifestyle factors and reducing your risk in our information about causes and risk factors.

I am still worried

Sometimes, health worries are more complicated. If someone close to you has been diagnosed with cancer, it is understandable that you may be worried. Or you may be concerned if you read about a person who is a similar age to you being diagnosed with cancer.

It is quite usual to have times when you worry about getting cancer. But if you are constantly checking to see if you have symptoms or if you cannot stop worrying about your health, you may need more help. The following services may help you with your worries:

Your GP may be able to help or give you information about counselling services in your area.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by members of Macmillan’s Centre of Clinical Expertise.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 January 2024
Next review: 01 January 2027
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.