10 cancer symptoms women should not ignore

A new year has begun. The holidays are behind us. In a few, short months the tax man cometh.  It’s the circle of life.  But this year I proclaim will be the best year yet–it will bring new life, health, happiness and prosperity.  We’ve had enough of wars, rumors of wars, unemployment, national debt and financial hardship; sickness and diseases. Haven’t we?  We have one life to live, let’s choose to bring into our lives those things (and people) that make us sing and let go of those things  that weigh us down, bring stress,  unhappiness and sickness.  Let’s be wise in our choices. Let’s choose life!

Part of choosing life is to choose healthy eating habits.  Increasing fiber while decreasing pre-packaged foods and sodas is one way to promote health and well-being.  Choosing life also entails educating yourself on signs and symptoms of certain diseases, especially if they run in your family.   This past week I met a woman from Canada taking a break from her chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, from which she did not expect to recover. Cancer is a devastating disease with many causes.  We cannot always prevent disease from happening to us, but we can do our best to strengthen our immune systems to fight disease before it can take hold in our bodies. Let’s choose diets that build health, not tear it down.

When things go wrong, it’s helpful to know the symptoms so that treatment can begin early.  Below are 10 gynecologic cancer symptoms that every woman should be aware of (from MDAnderson.)

1. Abnormal vaginal bleeding. More than 90% of women diagnosed with endometrial cancer experience irregular bleeding. If you have already undergone menopause, any bleeding — spotting included — should be evaluated. Haven’t gone through menopause yet? See your doctor if you experience bleeding between periods, heavy bleeding or bleeding during sex.

2. Unexplained weight loss. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight by exercising and making healthier food choices can actually help curb your cancer risks. But if you suddenly lose more than 10 pounds without changing your diet or exercise habits, talk to your doctor.

3. Vaginal discharge colored with blood. Bloody, dark or smelly discharge is usually a sign of infection. But sometimes, it’s a sign of cervical or endometrial cancer.

4. Constant fatigue. A busy week can wear anyone out. But in most cases, a little rest should cure your fatigue. If fatigue is interfering with your work or leisure activities, stop blaming your hectic life and see your doctor.

5. Swollen leg. Does one of your legs look or feel swollen for no apparent reason? This may be a sign of cervical cancer. Typically, though, a swollen leg isn’t a sign of cancer unless you also have pain, discharge or other cervical cancer symptoms.

6. Loss of appetite or feeling full all the time. Never hungry anymore? Or constantly feeling full? These appetite changes may be symptoms of ovarian cancer.

7. Pain in the pelvis or abdominal area. Ongoing abdominal pain or discomfort — including gas, indigestion, pressure, bloating and cramps — can signal ovarian cancer. And, constant pelvic pain or pressure can be a sign of endometrial cancer.

8. A bloated belly. It’s common to feel bloated after eating or drinking a lot, especially during your menstrual cycle. But if you feel bloated for more than two weeks or after your period ends, this could be a sign of ovarian cancer.

9. Constantly needing bathroom breaks. Suddenly need to use the bathroom all the time or feel constant pressure on your bladder? Unless you’ve started drinking more liquids or you’re pregnant, this may be a sign of cancer. Take note if you also feel full, have abdominal pain and experience bloating.

10. Persistent indigestion or nausea. Occasionally, persistent indigestion or nausea can signal gynecologic cancers. Play it safe, and see your doctor if you feel queasy more often than usual.

Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer. But if the symptoms last two weeks or longer, see your doctor.  An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

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