In the year 2016, it was estimated that around 1,685,210 new cancer cases would be diagnosed in the United States, with approximately 595,690 individuals succumbing to the disease. During that period, the prevalent types of cancers included breast cancer, lung and bronchial cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectal cancer, bladder cancer, skin melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, thyroid cancer, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, as well as leukemia. Endometrial cancer and pancreatic cancer were also foreseen.
Among the cancers that disproportionately affect women are breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer, skin cancer, and ovarian cancer. Being knowledgeable about these cancer types and understanding methods to prevent or detect them early (when treatment is more effective) can play a pivotal role in saving lives. Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer that women may face during their lifetimes (excluding skin cancer). While breast cancer can emerge at any age, the risk rises with advancing age. Some factors might increase the likelihood of certain women developing breast cancer; however, every woman should possess information about breast cancer and its management.
Women’s bodies undergo constant changes, traversing distinct phases of growth, sometimes encountering unusual trajectories. Women should be well-informed about the indicators of potential cancer. Many women may exhibit early warning signs of cancer, and being able to identify these signs might be lifesaving. Staying informed is essential. Presented below are 15 early warning signs of cancer in women that should not be overlooked:
- Breast Changes: Regular medical assessment is advisable for breast lumps, even though most aren’t cancerous. Alert your doctor to any changes like skin dimpling, nipple inversion, nipple discharge, or skin redness/scaling on the breasts or nipples.
- Persistent Bloating: While occasional bloating is common, persistent bloating, particularly when accompanied by weight loss or bleeding, could be indicative of ovarian cancer. Medical evaluation, including pelvic exams, blood tests, and ultrasounds, may be necessary.
- Unusual Menstrual Bleeding: Consult your doctor if you experience bleeding outside of your regular menstrual cycle. This could indicate endometrial cancer and merits investigation.
- Skin Changes: Alterations in mole size, shape, and color can be warning signs of skin cancer. Consult your doctor for a comprehensive evaluation and potentially a biopsy without delay.
- Blood in Urine or Stools: Notify your doctor if you encounter bleeding from an area that typically doesn’t bleed, particularly if it persists beyond a day or two. Hematuria can signal bladder or kidney cancer, while blood in stools might suggest colon cancer.
- Swollen Lymph Nodes: Enlarged lymph nodes can result from infections, but some cancers can also lead to swollen nodes. Any lump or swelling lasting over a month should prompt a medical examination.
- Persistent Dysphagia: Frequent difficulty swallowing, especially accompanied by vomiting and weight loss, might necessitate testing for throat or stomach cancer.
- Unexplained Weight Loss: While most unintentional weight loss isn’t indicative of cancer, it could also signify stomach or lung cancer. Medical tests, including blood tests and imaging scans, may be recommended.
- Chronic Heartburn: Severe heartburn can result from overeating, alcohol, or stress. Experimenting with dietary changes for a short period can help determine if symptoms improve.
- Oral Changes: If you smoke, watch for white or red spots in the mouth or lips, which could indicate oral cancer. Consult your doctor or dentist for proper evaluation.
- Persistent Fever: Unexplained, enduring fever might point to blood cancers like leukemia. Thorough medical history and physical exams are necessary for identifying the cause.
- Prolonged Fatigue: If fatigue persists and is accompanied by other symptoms such as blood in stools, consulting your doctor is advisable. Extensive medical history and blood tests may be needed.
- Urinary Changes: Frequent urination, reduced urine flow, or alterations in bladder function might signify urinary tract infections or, in men, an enlarged prostate. Consultation with a healthcare professional is recommended.
- Unexplained Pain: Persistent, unexplained pain lasting over a month might signal bone, brain, or other types of cancer. Seek medical attention for consistent, suspicious pain.
- Persistent Cough: While coughing is often innocuous, enduring coughing for weeks, especially with accompanying pain or shortness of breath, should raise concern. Blood in coughs or symptoms for smokers could be signs of lung cancer.