Cancer Symptoms NOT to Ignore

Posted on: February 19, 2014

Women’s Health: Cancer Symptoms NOT to Ignore

Dr. Gigi Chen

February is Cancer Prevention Awareness Month and it is important for women to remember that if they experience changes with their body, to contact their physician. A change in your body doesn’t automatically mean you have cancer, but some symptoms should not be ignored either.   Here are 10 potential cancer symptoms to pay attention to:
  1. Breast Changes: Remember to check for any lumps or bumps. Even if your mammograms are normal, you should routinely perform breast exams and have your doctor examine any new lump. Also remember to check your skin for discoloration or discharge.
  2. Irregular Bleeding: After you have reached menopause (defined as 12 months without a period), if you have any bleeding that occurs, request an exam from your doctor. Also, if you have not reached menopause yet but experience irregular bleeding or spotting outside of your regular periods, contact your physician.
  3. Rectal Bleeding: If you have any rectal bleeding at all, contact your doctor. Colon cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in women and a common symptom is rectal bleeding.
  4. Discharge: If you have foul smelling vaginal discharge, your doctor will need to perform an exam to determine is the discharge is due to in infection or something more serious.
  5. Bloating: Bloating, feeling fuller quicker while eating, a change and urination/bowel habits and lower back/pelvic pain are the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer. It is not unusual to have a few of these symptoms after a big meal, but if you have 2 or more of them for longer than 2 weeks, you should contact your doctor.
  6. Unexplained Weight Loss/Gain: Though major unexplained weight loss in women is most commonly caused by a thyroid problem, major unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more can be the first signs of pancreatic, stomach, esophageal or lung cancers.
  7. Persistent Coughing: A cough that lasts more than 2 or 3 weeks that is NOT due to an upper respiratory infection/allergy, or produces blood, should be checked by your physician.
  8. Change in Lymph Nodes: Swollen lymph nodes often occur when your body is fighting off an infection. However, if you feel enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or under your arm you should be seen by your doctor.
  9. Fatigue: If you are often fatigued, see your doctor. Fatigue may be caused by a thyroid condition, however extreme tiredness that does not seem to get better with rest, could be a result of blood loss which occurs in colon and stomach cancers as well as leukemia.
  10. Skin Changes: Call your doctor right away if there are any changes on your skin that concern you. A simple biopsy done at your doctor’s office can determine if the lesion is cancerous.  Also, mouth sores that don’t heal should be examined by your doctor.

3 Ways to Lower Your Cancer Risk

  • Know your family history
  • Know your BMI and stay a healthy weight
  • Schedule regular screenings
  Gigi Chen, MD is a Medical Oncologist and Hematologist practicing at Diablo Valley Oncology, located in the California Cancer and Research Institute, Pleasant Hill. Tags: