Conditions and symptoms


Check your symptoms

Not all symptoms are a sign of something seriously wrong with your health. That said, it's important to get any unusual symptoms checked as soon as they appear. If your symptoms turn out to be an indicator of something wrong, you’ll be able to access appropriate treatment as soon as possible. The earlier you seek and receive treatment, the more successful that treatment is likely to be. Getting your symptoms checked by a GP or health professional may also help relieve the anxiety associated with undiagnosed health issues.

Seek help from a GP or health professional if you experience any of the symptoms listed here.


The common feature of all cancers is the abnormal multiplication of cells.

Breast cancer

  • A new lump in the breast or under the arm
  • Thickening, swelling or changed size or shape of any part of the breast
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Skin irritation, redness, flaking skin or dimpling
  • Pain or pulling in the nipple area
  • Pain in any part of the breast

Skin cancer

We have one of the world’s highest rates of skin cancer.

  • Any crusty sore that won’t heal
  • Small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
  • Spots, freckles or moles that change colour, thickness or shape over weeks or months
  • A spot that is different to other spots on your skin
  • A tender, raised growth that bleeds

Prostate cancer

The most common non-skin cancer in men is prostate cancer.

  • Needing to urinate suddenly or more often
  • Difficulty or discomfort when urinating
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Lower back pain or pain in the upper thighs or hips

Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer occurs most often in women over 50.

  • Abdominal or back pain
  • Bloating or feeling full
  • Appetite loss or feeling full quickly
  • Change in toilet habits
  • Needing to urinate more often
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Bleeding in-between periods or after menopause
  • Indigestion or nausea
  • Pain during intercourse

Bowel cancer

There may be few, if any, early warning signs of bowel cancer. Most people who contract bowel cancer are over the age of 60, but it can strike at any age. The Government provides free bowel cancer screening kits for those between the ages of 50 - 74.

Main symptoms

  • Blood in stools
  • Change in bowel habits (for example, more frequent, looser stools or constipation)
  • Abdominal pain

Other symptoms can include

  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Anaemia 
  • Abdominal bloating or cramping
  • Feeling of incomplete emptying
  • Thin bowel movements
  • Pain or lump in the anus or rectum
  • Unexplained weight loss

Find out more in our cancer health guide.


COVID-19 coronavirus is a respiratory illness that can be life-threatening in serious cases. It currently has no treatment.

Most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath

Less common symptoms can include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes

Find out more in our COVID-19 health guide.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease is diagnosed when an artery narrows or clogs due to a build-up of plaque.

Most common symptom:

  • chest pain (angina)

Other symptoms can include:

  • heart palpitations
  • unusual breathlessness

A heart attack happens when a coronary artery becomes completely blocked.

Call triple zero (000) immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Chest pain. This can feel like uncomfortable pressure, aching, numbness, squeezing, fullness or pain
    in your chest. The discomfort can spread to your arms, neck, jaw or back and it can last for several
    minutes or come and go
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, feeling faint or feeling anxious
  • Nausea, indigestion, vomiting 
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing – with or without chest discomfort 
  • Sweating or a cold sweat.

Find out more in our heart health guide


Asthma is a respiratory condition that causes inflammation of the airways.

  • Breathlessness or gasping for breath
  • A tight chest, possibly as if a band is tightening around it
  • Wheezing or whistling sound when you breathe
  • Coughing, especially at night and early in the morning

Asthma attacks can happen suddenly or build over a few days. They can be triggered by exposure to allergens (such as dust or animal dander), exercise or other triggers.

  • Severe or constant wheezing, coughing and chest tightness
  • Becoming too breathless to eat, speak or sleep
  • Faster breathing
  • Faster heartbeat
  • Feeling drowsy, confused, exhausted or dizzy
  • Blue lips or fingers
  • Fainting

Call triple zero (000) immediately if you or someone else has severe symptoms of asthma.

Find out more in our lung health guide.


Diabetes elevates the level of sugar (glucose) in a person’s blood. In type 1 diabetes the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or cells don’t respond appropriately to it.

Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1 diabetes.

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Urinating more often, especially at night
  • Feeling very tired
  • Weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts or wounds that take a long time to heal

Find out more in our diabetes health guide.


Dementia affects brain function. The most common type of dementia is vascular dementia, caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. It’s most common in people over the age of 65.

Early symptoms:

  • Vagueness in everyday conversations
  • Loss of enthusiasm for things usually enjoyed
  • Taking longer than before to do routine things
  • Forgetting people or places
  • Finding it hard to follow instructions
  • Becoming more unpredictable emotionally

Other symptoms that can gradually evolve:

  • Problems with language, such as forgetting simple words
  • Losing track of time and place
  • Showing poor judgement
  • Difficulty with planning
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Losing or misplacing things regularly
  • Mood swings for no apparent reason
  • Problems with concentration
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of initiative

Find out more about dementia


Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the joints. The most common types of arthritis in Australia are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.


  • Pain or tenderness in the joints
  • Swelling or inflammation in and around the joints
  • Redness and heat in skin over affected joints
  • Stiffness or reduced movement

Other symptoms can include:

  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Skin problems
  • Feeling unwell
  • Weakness or muscle wasting

Get support for your arthritis.


Osteoporosis weakens bones and makes them more likely to break. The condition develops gradually and there are often no warning signs in the early stages.

Symptoms can include:

  • Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
  • Gradual loss of height
  • Being stooped
  • A fracture that occurs more easily than expected

Find out more in our bone health guide.


Stroke is a medical emergency that happens when blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.

Call triple zero (000) immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

Symptoms can happen FAST:

  • Face – may have dropped on one side, inability to smile or mouth or eye may have dropped
  • Arms – inability to lift both arms because of weakness and/or numbness on one side
  • Speech – blurred, gabbled or slurred, inability to communicate, or problems understanding
  • Time – don’t waste time, call triple zero (000) if you notice any of these symptoms

The sooner treatment is administered, the less damage is likely to happen.

Find out more at the Health Direct website.

Emotional problems

Depression, anxiety, stress, substance abuse and mood disorders can all affect mental health.

Symptoms of emotional problems can include:

  • Persistently feeling anxious, agitated or worried
  • Feeling sad, irritable, depressed or unhappy
  • Sudden and dramatic changes in mood, often characterised by emotional outbursts
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fluctuating weight or rapid weight loss
  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones, or losing interest in hobbies
  • Feeling guilty, worthless or hopeless
  • Substance abuse
  • Significant changes in thoughts, feelings or behaviour

If you or someone you know needs urgent help, call triple zero (000) or go straight to your GP or hospital emergency department. You can also contact a 24/7 crisis centre:

Find out more in our mental health guide.


All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified health care professional.

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