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The head-to-toe DIY cancer checks you need to know – and the earliest symptoms to watch for

THERE are many different types of cancer and it’s impossible to know the symptoms of all of them.

But there are a few key signs you can spot yourself with easy DIY checks you can do in the comfort of your own home.

There are some general signs of cancer to look out out for, the key is to understanding what’s normal for you – and seeking help if you spot anything unusual
<button class="lightbox-trigger" type="button" aria-haspopup="dialog" aria-label="Enlarge image" data-wp-on--click="actions.core.image.showLightbox" data-wp-style--right="context.core.image.imageButtonRight" data-wp-style--top="context.core.image.imageButtonTop" > <svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" width="12" height="12" fill="none" viewBox="0 0 12 12"> <path fill="#fff" d="M2 0a2 2 0 0 0-2 2v2h1.5V2a.5.5 0 0 1 .5-.5h2V0H2Zm2 10.5H2a.5.5 0 0 1-.5-.5V8H0v2a2 2 0 0 0 2 2h2v-1.5ZM8 12v-1.5h2a.5.5 0 0 0 .5-.5V8H12v2a2 2 0 0 1-2 2H8Zm2-12a2 2 0 0 1 2 2v2h-1.5V2a.5.5 0 0 0-.5-.5H8V0h2Z" /> </svg> </button>One thing you can do is check parts of your body like your breasts – look or feel of the skin on your breast, such as puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness (left and centre top), nipple discharge (right top), a lump, swelling, change in nipple position or discomfort. Feel for lumps lying down (left bottom) using your finger pads. Do the same standing up

Though a number of common cancer symptoms happen inside your body, making them difficult to assess if you’re not a doctor, some will be easy to see or feel.

The earlier you spot something that’s not normal to you, the earlier you can speak to a doctor about it.

Though new symptoms won’t necessarily be a sign of cancer, it’s important to see a GP about them as spotting cancer early means it’s easier to treat.

It comes after King Charles announced this week that he was suffering from an unspecified form of cancer, which was found as he underwent a procedure for an enlarged prostate.

The monarch’s cancer was thankfully “caught early”, according to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Here, we break down four DIY tests you can do at home to check your body for signs of cancer.

1. Check your boobs

It’s a good thing to be aware of what your boobs and chest area usually look or feel like, so you can spot anything that’s not normal to you.

Take note that your breasts might look and feel different according to the time of the month.

The NHS says it’s important to regularly check your breasts and underarms for any new lumps and bumps or changes.

If you’re still menstruating, the National Breast Cancer Foundation advised you do a breast ‘self exam’ a few days after your period ends.

If you’ve gone through the menopause, try to check your boobs around the same time every month.

Here’s how to go about that:

  1. Stand in front of a mirror with your hands by your sides, then above your head and place your hands on your hips and push in on your hips slightly. In each position, look for any changes in breast size or shape, and any new asymmetry, lumps or changes in outline.
  2. Look to see if your nipple is pointing in a different direction or has turned inwards (if you have always had inverted nipples, this is normal for you and not of concern).
  3. Check if there is any nipple discharge or crusting, any rashes, darker or red patches, or other changes such as the appearance of cellulite or if the skin is like orange peel.
  4. Feel the whole of the chest area with your finger pads, including the breast tissue that extends up to the collarbone and into the armpit. You are feeling for changes such as a lump, thickening or bumpy area.
  5. It does not matter exactly how you examine your breasts, be it in sections like a quarter at a time, or starting from the nipple and working outwards in circular motions, just that you examine the whole area.
  6. You can also do this in the shower and lying down.

Breast changes can happen for many reasons and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer.

But if you notice any of the following changes, it’s a good idea to speak to a GP:

  • A change in the size, outline or shape of your breast
  • A change in the look or feel of the skin on your breast, such as puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness
  • A new lump, swelling, thickening or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that was not there before
  • A discharge of fluid from either of your nipples
  • Any change in nipple position, such as your nipple being pulled in or pointing differently
  • A rash , crusting, scaly or itchy skin or redness on or around your nipple
  • Any discomfort or pain in one breast, particularly if it’s a new pain and does not go away

2. Check your balls

Testicular cancer is one of the less common forms of the disease, according to the NHS, with typical symptoms tending to be painless swelling or a lump in one of the testicles.

As with breasts, it’s important to be aware of what feels normal to you so you can speak to a GP about any changes.

It’s quite common for one testicle to be a little larger than the other or hang lower.

They should feel smooth, without any lumps or bumps, and firm but not hard.

You may feel a soft tube at the back of each testicle, called the epididymis.

A lump or bump in your balls will not necessarily be cancer. But symptoms of the disease to look out for include:

  • A hard lump on the front or side of a testicle
  • Swelling or enlargement of a testicle
  • An increase in firmness of a testicle
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum – the sac that holds your testicles
  • An unusual difference between one testicle and the other

It’s easy to give your testicles a once-over in the shower – as the warm water will will relax the scrotum and the muscles holding the testicles – and it only takes five minutes.

Here’s how to do it, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine:

  1. Starting on one side, gently roll the scrotum with your fingers to feel the surface of the testicle.
  2. Check for any lumps, bumps or unusual features – take note that cancerous tumours typically aren’t painful.
  3. Make note of any changes in size over time. While the most common symptom of testicular cancer is a painless mass, some men experience swelling of the testicles and scrotum.
  4. Take note of any dull soreness or heaviness.
  5. Repeat with the other testicle.

3. Check your skin

Skin cancers that are found early and removed almost always tend to be curable, according to Cambridge University Hospitals.

So it’s a good idea to give your skin regular once-over, to be aware of new or changing moles or other skin changes.

Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Stand in front of a full length mirror and examine the front and back of your body, then raise your arms and look at the right and left sides.
  2. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, underarms, fingernails, and palms.
  3. Then examine the backs of your legs and feet, between your toes, your toenails and the soles of your feet.
  4. Use a hand mirror to examine your neck and scalp, parting your hair, or ask someone to help you.
  5. Check your back and bum with a hand mirror too.

Cancer Research UK says common symptoms of skin cancer include a sore or area of skin that:

  • Doesn’t heal within four weeks
  • Looks unusual
  • Hurts, is itchy, bleeds, crusts or scabs for more than four weeks

Look out for sores that don’t heal, ulcers, lumps, red patches or changing freckles and moles.

Follow th ABCDE rule to assess the health of a mole.

If your mole falls into the following, it’s worth getting checked:

  • Asymmetrical – melanomas usually have two very different halves and are an irregular shape
  • Border – melanomas usually have a notched or ragged border
  • Colours – melanomas will usually be a mix of two or more colours
  • Diameter – most melanomas are usually larger than 6mm in diameter
  • Enlargement or elevation – a mole that changes size over time is more likely to be a melanoma

4. Pay attention to bowel habits

Though going to the toilet is something many of us do without thinking, it’s worth paying attention to your bowel habits as it’s one of the ways your body tells you that something isn’t right.

There’s no set amount of times you should be pooping a day, what’s normal is different for everybody.

But if you’re noticing persistent and unexplained changes to your bowel habits, these are definitely worth bringing up with your GP.

For example, you may have looser poos or need to poo more often than usual, according to Bowel Cancer UK.

You also may feel like you’re not going to the toilet often enough, or that you’re not fully emptying your bowels.

Any signs of blood in your poo or bleeding from your bottom in combination with these changes in habit could be signs of bowel cancer.

Symptoms of bowel cancer to know include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

In a win for The Sun’s No Time 2 Lose campaign, which was spearheaded by Dame Deborah James, anyone with symptoms of bowel cancer can be sent a free at-home test kit.


READ more of the Sun's articles about cancer, from which cancers are most common for each age group to breakthrough drug research.


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