In our busy daily life, thinking about something as awful as cancer probably isn’t among the things you consider. It should be, however, even if you are young and healthy.
Why? Because every year, almost 100,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with some type of cancer, especially gynecological cancer. Although most cancers occur in women after menopause, cancer can actually strike anyone at any age. One of the signs of cancer, especially gynecological cancer, can be similar to other conditions — very vague, and very difficult to describe sometimes.
No matter how young or old you might be, it is important for all women to know what to look for and what signs to be aware of so that you can alert their doctor right away. Many cancers can be stopped and fully treated — but only if they are caught early.
Keep reading so you can familiarize yourself with the top 11 cancer symptoms most women ignore but shouldn’t!
1. Blood In The Stool Or Urine
If you find blood in places where it shouldn’t be, such as in your stool or pee, and it doesn’t stop after a day or two, you should see your doctor. Most times it is nothing more than hemorrhoids or a urinary tract infection; however, this is also one of the first signs of cancer of the kidneys or bladder.
2. Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
More than 90 percent of women who have been diagnosed with endometrial cancer state that they had issues with irregular bleeding. Especially if you have already undergone menopause and have not had a period for more than a year, any bleeding, even if it’s just spotting, should be reported to your doctor and evaluated. If you are a younger woman who has not gone through menopause, and you are having spotting or bleeding between periods, if you have excessively heavy bleeding, or if you bleed after sex, see your doctor for an evaluation.
3. Skin Changes
If you have what appears to be a sore or red, irritated spot anywhere on your skin that does not heal within two weeks, or if you have a sore that scabs over, but peels off and then scabs over again and never really heals, you should see a dermatologist. Also, if you have a mole that changes size, shape, or color, especially if it is very black or red and is irregularly shaped (not round or oval), you should see a dermatologist as soon as possible. These are all common signs of skin cancer. Although most skin cancers are not serious and can be successfully “burned” off right in your doctor’s office, it is a good idea to be certain that it isn’t a serious, life-threatening form of skin cancer called melanoma.
4. Unexplained Weight Loss
If you are dieting or exercising hard in order to lose weight, good for you! Eating a healthy diet and getting some regular exercise can actually curb your risk of developing cancer. However, if you have lost more than 10 pounds and you haven’t been trying to lose weight, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
5. Pain In The Abdominal Or Pelvic Area
Ongoing pain or discomfort in the abdominal area, whether it be from cramps, bloating, indigestion, gas, or a feeling of pressure, is sometimes a sign of ovarian cancer. Constant pain in the pelvis area or a feeling of pressure can also be a sign of endometrial cancer. If you have unexplained pain, pressure, or cramps in the pelvic or abdominal area for more than two weeks, see your doctor right away.
6. Swollen Leg
If your leg feels or looks swollen, and you don’t have a good reason for the swelling, it could be a sign of cervical cancer. However, a swollen leg is not necessarily a sign of cancer unless it is accompanied by other symptoms such as unusual discharge, abdominal pain, or other types of cervical cancer.
7. Unexplained Fatigue
Running after small children or an extremely busy week at work is enough to wear out even the hardiest female. Most women recover with a few good nights’ rest or a nap, but if your fatigue is extreme, interfering with your normal work or leisure activities, see a doctor. Menopausal women often feel fatigued in the afternoons, but if your fatigue continues daily for more than two weeks, see your doctor for a check-up.
8. Feeling The Urge To Pee Frequently
Sometimes this is simply due to an overactive bladder, but feeling constant pressure on your bladder and needing to pee frequently can be a sign of bladder or kidney cancer. These feelings might be normal if you are pregnant or if you have suddenly decided to take up the gallon water challenge, but if these feelings continue without explanation, talk to your doctor.
9. Breast Changes
Contrary to popular belief, most breast lumps are not cancerous, but you should always check them out with your doctor. Other breast changes you should pay attention to are a discharge from the nipples, nipples that turn inward, dimpling or puckering of the skin, and redness or scaling of either the breast skin or on the nipple area. If you have large breasts, be sure to pick them up and inspect underneath them for any changes such as dimples or puckering of the skin. If anything about your breasts changes suddenly, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
10. Changes in Your Lymph Nodes
You have lymph nodes all over your body, but they are concentrated in areas under the jaw, the throat, under the arms, and in the groin area. These small, bean-shaped glands sometimes swell when they are fighting an infection. If you have ever had a throat infection or a bad cold, you most likely have noticed that the lymph nodes directly under the jaw swell slightly. This swelling is normal in response to an infection; however, if you are not sick and you experience swelling of any lymph node that does not go away within two or three weeks, see your doctor ASAP. This is often the first sign of lymphoma or leukemia.
11. Loss of Appetite
If you are suddenly feeling full all the time or have completely lost your appetite, and these feelings last for more than a week, see your doctor. Changes in your appetite can be a sign of ovarian cancer.
12. Persistent Cough
Most coughs will go away after a few weeks. However, if you have a nagging cough, especially one that is non-productive (meaning you aren’t coughing up phlegm), then you should see your doctor right away. If you are a smoker, or if you feel short of breath in addition to the cough, then it becomes even more important that you seek medical advice. A nagging cough is the most common symptom of lung cancer. Even if you don’t smoke, you can develop lung cancer. You should also see your doctor if you are coughing up blood.
Although it seems as if women’s bodies are always changing, some changes are not normal. If you experience any type of change in your body that does not feel right or seems unusual, don’t wait. Talk over your concerns with your physician. You will be glad you did.