Don’t just rely on routine tests to protect you from cancer. It is just as important to listen to your body and observe anything that’s different, abnormal, or unexplainable. Here are some signs that women usually overlook:
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
The inability to catch their breath is one of the first signs noticed by many lung cancer patients.
- Chronic cough or chest pain
Leukemia and lung tumors are just some of the types of cancer that can cause symptoms that mimic a bad cough or bronchitis. Some lung cancer patients have reported chest pain that extends up into the shoulder or down the arm.
- Frequent fevers or infections
These can be symptoms of leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells that starts in the bone marrow. Leukemia causes the marrow to produce abnormal white blood cells, reducing your body’s capability to fight off infection.
- Difficulty swallowing
This is most commonly associated with esophageal or throat cancer, but it can also be one of the first signs of lung cancer.
- Swollen lymph nodes or lumps on the neck, underarm, or groin
Swollen lymph nodes indicate changes in the lymphatic system, which can be a symptom of cancer.
- Excessive bruising or bleeding that doesn’t stop
This symptom can be a sign of leukemia as it is an indication that something abnormal is happening with the platelets and red blood cells. After a while, leukemia cells outgrow the number of red blood cells and platelets, weakening your blood’s ability to carry oxygen and clot.
- Weakness and fatigue
A general feeling of fatigue and weakness is a symptom of many different kinds of cancer, and it should be looked for in combination with other symptoms. But if you feel exhausted without a reason and sleeping doesn’t help, talk to your doctor.
- Bloating or abdominal weight gain
Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer report unexplained and sudden abdominal bloating that continued on and off over a long period of time.
- Feeling full and unable to eat
This can also be a symptom of ovarian cancer. Women report having no appetite and being unable to eat, even when they haven’t eaten for some time.
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
This is yet another symptom that goes hand in hand with the bloating that often signals ovarian cancer. Abdominal pain that is a result of an enlarged spleen can be a symptom of leukemia.
- Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
This is a common symptom of colorectal cancer. Blood in the toilet is reason enough to call your doctor and schedule a colonoscopy.
- Unexplained weight loss
Weight loss can be an early sign of colon and other digestive cancers. It can also be a sign of cancer that’s spread to the liver and affects your appetite and your body’s ability to rid itself of wastes.
- Upset stomach or stomachache
Having stomach cramps or frequently upset stomach can be an indicator of colorectal cancer.
- A red, sore, or swollen breast
These symptoms can be an indicator of inflammatory breast cancer. Call your doctor about any unexplained changes to your breasts.
- Nipple changes
Flattened, inverted or nipples that are turned sideways are very common changes noticed by women before being diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Unusually heavy or painful periods or bleeding between periods
These symptoms have often been reported by women who have been diagnosed with endometrial or uterine cancer. You should ask for a transvaginal ultrasound if you suspect something more than routine heavy periods.
- Swelling of facial features
Puffiness, swelling, or redness in the face have been noticed by some patients with lung cancer. Small cell lung tumors usually block blood vessels in the chest, preventing the blood from flowing freely from the head and face.
- A sore or skin lump that doesn’t heal, becomes crusty, or bleeds easily
You should learn about the different types of skin cancer — melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma — and observe the skin on your body for any odd-looking spots or growths.
- Changes in nails
Unexplained changes to the fingernails can be a symptom of several types of cancer. A brown or black streak or dot under the nail can be a sign of skin cancer, while newly discovered “clubbing”– enlargement of the ends of the fingers with nails that curve down over the tips — can be a symptom of lung cancer. Pale or white nails can sometimes be a symptom of liver cancer.
- Pain in the back or lower right side
Many cancer patients report this as the first sign of liver cancer. Breast cancer is also often diagnosed through back pain, which can occur when a breast tumor presses backward into the chest, or when the cancer spreads to the spine or ribs.