The warning signs of female genital tract cancer can be vague and similar to those of other conditions. That’s why it’s important to know what to look for.
Cancer may not be on your radar, especially if you are relatively young and healthy. But it should be so, regardless of your age or family history.
Each year, approximately 90,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with gynecological cancer, such as endometrial cancer (also known as uterine cancer), ovarian cancer, or cervical cancer. More than 242,000 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Most of these cancers occur in postmenopausal women. But gynecological cancer can also affect premenopausal women.
“Your risk of all cancers increases with age, but it’s important to know what to look out for at any age,” says Teresa Bowers, MD, medical director of the Center for Cancer Prevention. “That way, if symptoms appear, you can tell your doctor right away.”
Signs of cancer, especially gynecological cancer, may be vague and similar to those of other diseases. Breast and cervical cancer can only be detected through screening tests. Thus, recognizing these symptoms and discussing these symptoms with your gynecologist or primary care physician may increase your chances of finding cancer early, when it is most treatable.
Here are 10 cancer symptoms every woman should watch out for.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding. More than 90% of women diagnosed with endometrial cancer have irregular bleeding. If you have already gone through menopause, any bleeding, including spotting, should be evaluated. Have you gone through menopause yet? See your doctor if you experience bleeding between periods or heavy bleeding or bleeding during intercourse. It can also be a sign of cervical or vaginal cancer.
- Unexplained weight loss. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight through exercise and healthy food choices can actually help reduce your risk of cancer. But if you suddenly lose more than 10 pounds without changing your diet or exercise, talk to your doctor.
- Bloody discharge from the vagina.
- Bloody vaginal discharge Bloody, dark, or foul-smelling discharge is usually a sign of an infection. But sometimes it is a harbinger of cervical, vaginal, or endometrial cancer.
- Constant fatigue. A busy week can be exhausting for anyone. But in most cases, rest should relieve fatigue. If fatigue is interfering with work or play, stop blaming your hectic life and see a doctor.
- Lack of appetite or constant feeling of satiety. never starved? Changes in appetite may be a symptom of ovarian cancer or other cancers not related to the reproductive system.
- Pain in the abdomen or pelvis. Persistent pain or discomfort in the abdomen, including gas, indigestion, pressure, bloating, and cramps, may indicate ovarian or endometrial cancer.
- Changes in toilet habits. Do you suddenly need to urinate all the time or do you feel constant pressure on your bladder? If you haven’t started drinking more fluids or are not pregnant, this could be a sign of cancer.
- Persistent indigestion or nausea. Sometimes persistent indigestion or nausea can indicate cancer of the female reproductive system. Play it safe and see your doctor if you feel sicker than usual.
- A change in the nature of the stool may be a sign that something is pressing on the outside of the colon. It can be at any late stage of gynecological cancer or other cancer.
- Breast changes. Most types of breast cancer are discovered by women themselves during routine daily activities such as showering, shaving or even combing. Pay attention to bumps in the chest or under the arms. Also watch for breast skin changes, breast appearance changes, and nipple abnormalities.
Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean you have cancer. But if it lasts two weeks or more, see your doctor to get checked out.