September is National Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month and, luckily for women, these cancers are accompanied with some pretty major warning signs.
Gynecologic cancer, which includes endometrial, cervical, ovarian, vaginal, and vulvar cancer, affects approximately 106,000 women each year. Though these types of cancers are common, they are incredible treatable when diagnosed early. The problem, however, is that many women do not recognize the early warning signs of gynecologic cancer. As women have bodies that are constantly responding to variables such as their diet or menstrual cycle, these notable changes in their bodies are misinterpreted in the beginning. The discussion with their doctor is often forgotten or postponed, delaying the time between the development of cancer and treatment.
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine what is a natural change in a woman’s body, and what is a warning sign. To help detect gynecologic cancer as soon as possible, women who experience any of these five warning signs should contact a doctor immediately.
- Any changes ‘downstairs’
There are a lot of warning signs that take place below the belt. If anything seems unusual, women should seek medical advice immediately. Some of the most common signs that something isn’t quite right include abnormal bleeding, vaginal discharge colored with blood, pain in the pelvis (or abdomen), or changes in bathroom habits. Changes in stool and changes in the frequency of urination can certainly be attributed to one’s diet, so it is important to be aware of changes that occur without dietary variables.
- Similarly, any changes ‘upstairs’
Changes in the breasts don’t suggest a gynecologic cancer, but it is typically the first sign of breast cancer. More than 279,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and noticing a lump or change in skin can greatly reduce the likelihood of the cancer spreading.
- Unexplained weight loss
Some say that weight fluctuates approximately five to six pounds each day. Nobody expects that weight fluctuates 10 pounds a day. If a woman experiences rapid weight loss, it is a strong warning that something is wrong. Unexpected weight loss that cannot be attributed to an exercise regime or diet should act as a trigger to contact one’s doctor. Such weight loss can be a sign of cancer as well as other serious diseases.
- Constant fatigue
Life can be exhausting, and some weeks are a pure challenge. If this overwhelming feeling of fatigue is long lived, however, that may be a warning sign that something is wrong. Fatigue can be a sign of cancer. Speaking to a doctor sooner rather than later will not only improve one’s life, but it might save it.
- Unusual appetite
Having no appetite is a sign that something is not quite right. Ovarian cancer, and other cancers outside of gynecologic cancers, often have this symptom. Additionally, persistent indigestion or nausea can be a warning sign of cancer. If these feelings seem to last longer than normal, it is important to contact a doctor immediately.
Do you want to learn more about living a cancer-fighting lifestyle? National Foundation for Cancer Research provides many tips and resources on how to live a healthy life.
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