Lack of attention to warning signs, common myths and feed misperceptions, including the beliefs that cancer only strikes people with a family history of cancer or elderly.
Unfortunately, people at any age can develop cancer and those with a faulty cancer gene are at a higher risk.
Ovarian cancer, vaginal cancer and endometrial (uterine) cancer are the cancers that affect only women. Breast cancer may affect men, but largely and primarily occurs in women.
While cancer screenings and regular checkups are always recommended, knowing your body well is a key step toward early identification of any disease. Definitely, body changes can be indicative of any diseases.
These are 10 signs of cancer that women shouldn’t ignore.
- Breast Changes
Some signs of breast cancer may go undetected, even if you undergo regular mammography checkups.
You shouldn’t ignore a thick lump or hard knot on your breast or underneath your arm because it can be cancerous.
Symptoms of cancer might also be if one or both of your breasts experiences emanating warmth, swelling, redness, rashes, soreness, or darkening.
Important signs of cancer are when the skin on your breasts may pucker up or the size of your breast may change, one may appear bigger than the other.
If the nipple induces a bloody or clear(not milky) discharge without any pressure(such as squeezing) and occurs from only one breast, it may indicative of cancer.
- Abnormal Bleeding Pattern
Vaginal bleeding that occurs after menopause or between periods is considered abnormal. A cycle that lasts unusually long, abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding during sexual intercourse may also be a cause for concern and could be indicative of endometrial or cervical cancer.
You should consult your doctor right away if you have gone through menopause (absence of periods for a year) and you have bloody discharge, spotting or blood clot-discharge.
According to a 2003 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, post-menopausal bleeding incurs a 64-fold increase in endometrial cancer risk. Women with recurrent post-menopausal bleeding are at a higher risk of endometrial cancer than women who do not experience such bleeding.
Bloating is a condition that occurs during menstruation, indigestion, and overeating.
As a woman, you should consult your doctor right away when you experience perpetual bloating lasting three weeks or more because it could be a sign of ovarian cancer.
According to a 2001 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 71 percent of 168 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer reported fullness and unusual bloating of the abdomen.
- Pelvic or Abdominal Pain
It is common for women suffering from abdominal or pelvic pain to associate it with indigestion or menstrual cramps.
Although, frequent pelvic or abdominal pain could indicate vaginal, ovarian, or endometrial cancer. The risk for underlying cancer may become greater when this kind of pain occurs with irregular periods or bleeding between cycles.
In a 2006 study published in the Cancer journal, patients with ovarian cancer reported pelvic or abdominal pain as a common symptom of the disease.
- Vaginal Bumps & Itching
Bumps on the exterior of the vagina can be simply pimples resulting from wearing tight clothing, poor hygiene, or genital warts. In some cases, bumps can be a sign of cancer.
You should consult your doctor if you notice a bump on your outer vagina while shaving or washing the area. A cancerous bump is usually black or dark brown, but it could be white, red, or pink. Usually, it occurs near the clitoris, but it could be anywhere on the outer vagina.
A symptom of vulvar cancer may also be perpetual vaginal itching that does not get better with mild treatment.
- Loss of Appetite
If loss of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms like bloating or continues for no apparent reason it should be diagnosed immediately.
Ovarian cancer affects the body’s metabolism and causes a loss of appetite.
Loss of appetite was the third-highest reported symptom of ovarian cancer, according to a 2009 study published in BMJ.
- Low Hemoglobin
One of the symptoms of endometrial cancer that should be treated as early as possible is a low hemoglobin level.
A low hemoglobin before treatment is an important symptom in endometrial cancer patients and may cause a disorder in blood clotting, according to a 2001 study published in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer.
In a 2005 study published in the Blood Journal anemia occurs in more than 30 percent of ovarian cancer patients prior to treatment.
A major symptom and risk factor of endometrial cancer is obesity.
When you gain weight, the fat cells produce excess estrogen. The body stops producing progesterone (a hormone needed to regulate estrogen activity) when women reach menopause.
In the absence of progesterone, estrogen causes uterine cells to multiply at an abnormal rate, which results in an increased risk of cancer.
- Frequent Urination
A lesser-known symptom of ovarian cancer is a frequent urination. Frequent urination may be accompanied by a burning sensation and pain. It is often associated with bladder infections and urinary tract.
Frequent urination is often disregarded as a non-threatening condition, but it must be medically diagnosed immediately for possible ovarian cancer risk.
- Non-Bloody Vaginal Discharge
Non-bloody vaginal discharge also poses a certain risk of endometrial cancer.
About 10 percent of endometrial cancer-associated discharge is non-bloody, according to the American Cancer Society.
If you regularly experience non-bloody vaginal discharge, consult your doctor as it could be a sign of endometrial cancer.