WebMD Feature Archive
15 cancer symptoms women ignore
We uncover common cancer warning signs women often overlook
Women tend to be more vigilant than men about getting recommended health check-ups and cancer screenings, according to studies and experts.
They're generally more willing, as well, to get potentially worrying symptoms checked out, says cancer specialist Dr Mary Daly.
However, that is not always the case. Younger women, for instance, tend to ignore symptoms that could point to cancer. "They have this notion that cancer is a problem of older people," Daly tells us. They're often right, but plenty of young people get cancer, too.
Of course, some women are as skilled as men are at switching to denial mode. "There are people who deliberately ignore their cancer symptoms," says Dr Hannah Linden, another cancer specialist. It's usually denial, but not always, she says. "For some, there is a cultural belief that cancer is incurable, so why go there."
Talking about worrying symptoms shouldn't make people overreact, says Dr Ranit Mishori, an assistant professor of family medicine. "I don't want to give people the impression they should look for every little thing," she says.
With that healthy balance between denial and hypochondria in mind, we asked experts to talk about the symptoms that may not immediately make a woman worry about cancer, but that should be checked by a doctor. Read on for 15 possible cancer symptoms women often ignore.
1: Unexplained weight loss
Many women would be delighted to lose weight without trying. However, unexplained weight loss - say 10 pounds in a month without an increase in exercise or a decrease in food intake - should be checked, Dr Mishori says.
It could, of course, turn out to be another condition, such as an overactive thyroid.
Expect your doctor to run tests to check the thyroid and perhaps order a CT scan of different organs. The doctor needs to "rule out the possibilities, one by one," Dr Mishori says.
Bloating is so common that many women just live with it. However, persistent bloating 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 toilet.
If the bloating occurs almost every day and persists for more than a few weeks, you should consult your doctor. Expect your doctor to take a careful history and order a scan and blood tests, among others.