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Common Cancer Warning Signs Women often Overlook

Unexplained Weight Loss – Many women would be delighted to lose weight without trying. But unexplained weight loss — say 10 pounds in a month without an increase in exercise or a decrease in food intake — should be checked out. Unexplained weight loss is cancer unless proven not, It could, of course, turn out to be another condition, such as an overactive thyroid.

Bloating – Bloating is so common that many women just live with it. But it could point to ovarian cancer. Other symptoms of ovarian cancer include abdominal pain or pelvic pain, feeling full quickly — even when you haven’t eaten much — and urinary problems, such as having an urgent need to go to the bathroom. If the bloating occurs almost every day and persists for more than a few weeks, you should consult your physician. Expect your doctor to take a careful history and order a CT scan and blood tests, among others.

Between -Period Bleeding or Other Unusual Bleeding – Premenopausal women tend to ignore between-period bleeding. They also tend to ignore bleeding from the GI tract, mistakenly thinking it is from their period. But between-period bleeding, especially if you are typically regular, bears checking out, she says. So does bleeding after menopause, as it could be a symptom of endometrial cancer. GI bleeding could be a symptom of colorectal cancer.”Endometrial cancer is a common gynecologic cancer”. At least three-quarters who get it have some abnormal bleeding as an early sign.” Your doctor will take a careful history and, depending on the timing of the bleeding and other symptoms, probably order an ultrasound or biopsy.

Skin Changes -Most of us know to look for any changes in moles — a well-known sign of skin cancer. But we should also watch for changes in skin pigmentation. If you suddenly develop bleeding on your skin or excessive scaling, that should be checked, too. It’s difficult to say how long is too long to observe skin changes before you go to the doctor, but most experts say not longer than several weeks.

Breast Changes -Most women know their breasts well, even if they don’t do regular self-exams, and know to be on the lookout for lumps. But that’s not the only breast symptom that could point to cancer. Redness and thickening of the skin on the breast, which could indicate a very rare but aggressive form of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, also needs to be examined. If you have a rash that persists over weeks, you have to get it evaluated.

Likewise, if the look of a nipple changes, or if you notice discharge (and aren’t breastfeeding), see your doctor. If it’s outgoing normally and turns in, that’s not a good sign. If your nipples are inverted chronically no big deal It’s the change in appearance that could be a worrisome symptom. If you have breast changes, expect your doctor to take a careful history, examine the breast, and order tests such as a mammogram, ultrasound, MRI, and perhaps a biopsy.

Gnawing Abdominal Pain and Depression -Any woman who’s got a pain in the abdomen and is feeling depressed needs a checkup, says Lichtenfeld. Some researchers have found a link between depression and pancreatic cancer, but it’s a poorly understood connection.

Pain -As people age they seem to complain more of various aches and pains, but pain, as vague as it may be, can also be an early symptom of some cancers, although most pain complaints are not from cancer.Pain that persists and is unexplained needs to be checked out. Expect your physician to take a careful history, and based on that information decide what further testing, if any, is needed.

Persistent Cough– Coughs are expected with colds, the flu, allergies, and sometimes are a side effect of medications. But a very prolonged cough — defined as lasting more than three or four weeks — should not be ignored. You would expect your doctor to take a careful history, examine your throat, check out your lung functioning and perhaps order X-rays, especially if you are a smoker.

Fever – If you have a fever that isn’t explained by influenza or other infection, it could point to cancer. Fevers more often occur after cancer has spread from its original site, but it can also point to early blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma .

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