There are many symptoms which women tend to ignore as they feel that these could be normal changes occurring in the body, especially as they grow older. What’s even more worrisome is that they might brush off some of the more dangerous symptoms as just a passing phase.
Early Identification Is Key to Recovery, and Even Survival
Women, especially Indian women, are trained to think of others’ needs first, and then consider their own issues. This results in many women presenting with cancer at the third or fourth stage, making it a challenge for doctors to try and even increase their life expectancy slightly; i.e. ensure the patient lives for at least a year, or longer, if the prognosis is six months; let alone try and ensure survival.
Report Any Changes to Your Monthly Cycle
The one change which every woman, regardless of her age, should report to her doctor immediately changes in the monthly period cycle. This could be changed in patterns. The commonest complaint women have is of irregular menses. When irregular periods are coupled with pelvic pain, which may or may not be severe, seek advice from your gynecologist. Ovarian cysts and uterine tumors are often responsible for such distresses.
Don’t Ignore Heavy or Scanty Bleeding
If the monthly periods have been scanty, unusually heavy, or last longer than a week; consult your doctor to rule out more serious issues. When you miss your periods for more than a month without being pregnant or menopausal; it could be simply anemia or hypothyroidism, especially for very young ladies. However, it is better to get it clinically identified, and treated. Your gynecologist will put you through several clinical tests to rule out the more dangerous implications.
If you are hemorrhaging between periods, or after the onset of menopause; then it could indicate cervical or uterine cancer. Bleeding during sex is also a red flag as it is not normal. It could indicate endometritis. Timely screening and treatment could prevent the worst consequence of neglect.
Foul smelling vaginal discharge
When such discharge is colored red, or reddish brown, or coated with blood; it could be a surface infection. It could also indicate vaginal, cervical, or endometrial cancer. Get a swab test done, and treatment started immediately. Note, minor infections can rapidly burgeon into more serious issues.
Persistent Stomach Aches With or Without Severe Cramps
When you suffer persistent stomach aches, don’t ignore it. Especially, if it coupled with bloating, nausea, and/or cramps; see a doctor. If it is only irritable bowel syndrome, you have less to worry about; though you must get treated for it. Esophageal cancer, colorectal cancer, or cancers of the pancreas or liver might also generate these symptoms. Getting a screening is the safest bet. The doctor will know how best to proceed with the treatment after a screening, and with the results of various lab tests in hand. She will consider her options accordingly.
Cramps and severe stomach ache could also indicate gynecological issues
Brushing off cramps, bloating, and stomach aches as pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is fraught with danger. It could be anything from endometrial cancer to ovarian cancer.
Always Feeling Exhausted?
A hectic daily schedule could be the reason of your always feeling weary. Especially, mothers of very small children need 48 hours in a day to cope with their work. If added to that they have a professional life to maintain, then they do have a reason to be perpetually tired. Still, consult your doctor to rule out adversities, which may or may not be of gynecological origin. Though few people realize it, constant fatigue is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong.
Losing Weight Without Reason
If you haven’t been actively working towards weight loss through exercise and dietary modifications; check with your doctor. If it is accompanied by any swelling, bloating, a constant sense of being full, or loss of appetite; then it could indicate cancer of gynecological origin or of gastrointestinal origin. Whatever be the reason, it should be attended to before it becomes life-threatening.
Is it accompanied by changes in bowel movements?
If you have perceived any changes in how often you need to pass stools — more often or are constipated — then it rings warning bells. If accompanied by diarrhea, blood in the stools, and/or pungent smell, it could be indicative of colorectal cancer. Seek a gastroenterologist’s advice.
Do you need to go to relieve yourself more often?
Without being diabetic, or pregnant, or a sharp increase in fluid intake, urinating too often might indicate some gynecological issue or the onset of kidney damage. First consult your family physician, who might recommend lab tests, or if necessary, refer you to the relevant specialist.
Coughs That Simply Refuse to Go Away
Ladies are less likely to suffer from lung cancer, but those figures are changing thanks to the overwhelming air pollution levels. Plus, more women are smoking, both actively and passively. Coupled with difficulty in swallowing, coughs that refuse to go away require urgent medical attention. Difficulty in swallowing accompanied by vomiting could indicate esophageal cancer.
Mouth sores that refuse to heal
If you frequently suffer from mouth sores, and/or eruptions on the tongue, don’t delay in checking with your doctor. Chewing tobacco is usually the cause of most mouth cancers.
Make Breast Self-Examination a Monthly Affair
The commonest cancer among Indian women is breast cancer. It is also the kind which is relatively easy to cure if presented early. Women should begin breast self-examination early — ideally, from when they turn twenty — to first understand what their breast is like under normal circumstances and then identify any changes which occur. These could be changes in the nipples like turning inwards; discharges other than milk; dimpling of the skin; lumps; and strange redness, rashes, or scaling of the skin.
It is difficult to stay alert to bodily changes without becoming a hypochondriac. However, doctors are better placed to treat and heal patients who present with early symptoms of cancer, and other lethal ailments.