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Top 10 Cancer Symptoms Women Need to Know

Cancer Symptoms in Women


Updated August 11, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Women need to be vigilant about symptoms they may be experiencing. Many types of gynecologic cancers produce symptoms early enough for them to be successfully treated. When the symptoms are ignored, the delay in treatment can prove to be fatal. Ladies, listen to your bodies! If you are experiencing something abnormal for you, see your doctor. Chances are the symptoms aren't cancer related, but it's better to be safe.

1. Pelvic Pain

Woman talking with her doctor
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Pelvic pain is characterized by pain or pressure below the navel. It is persistent and isn't limited to just premenstrual syndrome. Pelvic pain is associated with endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, fallopian tube cancer and vaginal cancer.

2. Abdominal Swelling and Bloating

Abdominal swelling and bloating is one of the more common symptoms of ovarian cancer. It is also a symptom that is most ignored. The bloating may be so bad that one can't button their pants, or even have to go up a size.

3. Persistent Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain occurs in the lower back and often feels like a dull ache. Yet, some women describe it as feeling like labor pains. Lower back pain may be a symptom of ovarian cancer.

4. Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

Abnormal vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom experienced by women when they have a gynecologic cancer. Heavy periods, bleeding between periods, and bleeding during and after sex are all considered abnormal vaginal bleeding and are symptoms of gynecologic cancer. The symptoms of abnormal vaginal bleeding are linked to: cervical cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer.

5. Persistent Fever

If a fever that does not go away or lasts for more than 7 days on and off, it should be reported to your doctor. A stubborn fever is often a symptom of cancer, but keep in mind that a fever may also be a symptom of many other benign conditions.

6. Persistent Stomach Upset or Bowel Changes

If you experience constipation, diarrhea, blood in the stool, gas, thinner stools, or just a general overall change in the bowel habits, see your doctor. These changes may be due to symptoms of gynecological cancer and colon cancer..

7. Unintentional Weight Loss

Losing 10 or more pounds without trying may be a nice surprise, but isn't quite normal. Although a woman's weight may fluctuate throughout the month, any weight loss of 10 pounds or more should be reported to your doctor.

8. Vulva or Vaginal Abnormalities

With vulvar or vaginal abnormalities, you should be aware of any sores, blister, changes in skin color, and discharge. Women should exam their vulva and vagina regularly to look for these abnormalities.

9. Changes in the Breast

During the monthly breast self exam, women should look for lumps, tenderness, soreness, nipple discharge, dimpling, redness, or swelling. Report any changes to your doctor as soon as possible.

10. Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most commonly experienced cancer symptom. It is usually more common when the cancer has advanced, but still occurs in the early stages. Any type of fatigue that prevents you from doing normal daily activities need to be evaluated by a doctor.
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