Women tend to be more vigilant than men about getting recommended health
checkups and cancer screenings, according to
studies and experts.
They're generally more willing, as well, to get potentially worrisome
symptoms checked out, says Mary Daly, MD, oncologist and head of the department
of clinical genetics at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
But not always. 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 WebMD. And 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 Hannah
Linden, MD, a medical oncologist. She is a joint associate member of the Fred
Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and associate professor of medicine at the
University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle. 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 worrisome symptoms shouldn't make people overreact, says Ranit
Mishori, MD, an assistant professor of family medicine at the Georgetown
University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. "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, WebMD asked experts to talk about the symptoms that
may not immediately make a woman worry about cancer, but that should be checked
out. Read on for 15 possible cancer symptoms women often ignore.
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, Mishori says.
"Unexplained weight loss is cancer unless proven not," she 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," Mishori says.
No. 2: 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.