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Signs of Cancer Usually Ignored By Women

Learn to recognize the signs.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

No one likes to think about cancer. Fear of the disease can cause people to avoid learning about it, to skip routine screening exams, and to even ignore possible symptoms of cancer. That can have unfortunate results: For many cancers, early detection is key to survival. These are some signs of cancer that doctors say women tend to ignore, at potentially great risk to their health. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

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"Any abnormal bleeding, which would include bleeding after menopause, bleeding between periods, or very heavy or prolonged menstrual cycles would warrant a discussion with a doctor," says Dr. Christine O'Connor, director of well-woman and adolescent care at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "These are often a benign treatable issue, but can sometimes be a sign of something more serious, and shouldn't be ignored." 

2

Changes in Bowel Habits

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"Many women dismiss a change in their bowels as a sign of cancer," says Dr. Sonal Sura, radiation oncologist with GenesisCare. Anything change in bowel habits—an increase in diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or a feeling of incomplete emptying—can be a sign of a number of conditions, including colon cancer. "Women may mistake these symptoms for changes in their menstrual cycle, but if the symptoms persist, it is imperative to contact your doctor," says Sura 

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3

A Lump in the Neck

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"Studies have shown that thyroid cancer is now the fastest-growing cancer among women," says Dr. Celina Nadelman, a board-certified cytopathologist and a fine needle aspiration specialist. It's also three times more likely to appear in women than in men. 

Thyroid cancer appears as nodules (lumps and bumps) on the thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland on the front of the neck. Thyroid nodules are very common, and more than 90% are benign, says Nadelman. But any new growth in that area warrants examination by a physician, who may recommend a fine-needle biopsy of the lump to rule out cancer.

RELATED: Signs Your Gut is "Unhealthy," Say Physicians

4

Bloating

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Signs of ovarian cancer can be vague, doctors say, and they can easily be overlooked or attributed to something less serious. Bloating, pain or pressure from the pubic bone to below the ribcage that lasts more than two weeks can be warning signs of ovarian cancer. So can unintentional weight gain or a change in your bowel habits. Any of those symptoms warrant a call to your doctor.

RELATED: The #1 Sign Your Blood Sugar is "Way Too High"

5

Unexplained Weight Loss

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Losing weight without trying might seem like a happy stroke of luck. Unfortunately, in reality, it can be a sign of cancer, particularly leukemia, lymphoma, and cancers of the esophagus, liver, colon and pancreas. If you're shedding weight and haven't started a new diet or exercise routine, report it to your doctor.

And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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