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16 Signs of Women's Cancers: A Healthy Woman Checklist, Part 2

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In part one of "16 Signs of Women's Cancers," I discuss important reasons why every woman must take control of monitoring changes in her own body. Because of the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in her lifetime, it is important to recognize the signs of cancer early. Here we continue our 16-point "Healthy Woman Checklist."

Become the authority of your own body. Recognize changes early. This may save your life, and will certainly give you the opportunity to incorporate natural therapies and an integrative approach to your health care.

How to Recognize Cancer (continued from part one):

Symptoms of many cancers are often characterized by having a fixed location and by their persistence. This means the location doesn't change or travel and move around, and the symptoms do not come and go.

Go through the following "Cancer Cues Checklist" every month:

Here are 16 Signs of Women's Cancers That You Must Not Ignore (continued from part one):

  • Skin Changes: The Cancer Quest program at Emory University advises that you follow the ABCDE guidelines for recognizing skin cancers:

    Asymmetry: Melanomas tend to be asymmetrical while benign lesions are more rounded and symmetric.

    Borders: Benign lesions are usually regular and flush with the skin while melanomas may have irregular and/or raised borders.

    Color: Melanomas may be tan, black or brown and often include regions of red, white and blue.

    Diameter: In general, melanomas are larger than 6 mm in diameter.

    Evolution: Changes in physical appearance of melanocytic growths are often observed over time and skin marking should be monitored for changes. Because the changes may be gradual, it is a good idea to photograph any suspicious marks, including a ruler or coin for size comparison. This allows for direct comparison of images taken at different times.

  • Changes Inside Your Mouth: Early warning signs of cancer of the mouth and tongue may appear as white patches or tender, raw, ulcerated areas that do not heal. See your dentist for a complete oral exam. Smokers should pay extra attention to changes in lining of the mouth, the lips and tongue.
  • Persistent Fatigue: Fatigue is one of those vague symptoms that women with busy lives, juggling family, marriage, children, household and career might think is normal. Pay attention to what is reasonable and normal for you. Don't compare yourself to anyone else. If fatigue is ongoing, talk to your doctor. Whatever the cause, your health and well being are compromised and you need care and support.
  • Persistent Changes in Lymph Nodes: Lymph nodes are the outposts of our immune system. Although they are also found deep in the trunk, you can see and feel the lymph nodes near the surface of your body, in the areas around your neck and under your chin, at the base of the skull, under your armpits and in the groin. Swollen lymph nodes often signal the presence of infection. However, this usually lasts only a short period of time. Even if only one lymph node is persistently swollen or tender for over one month, see your health care provider for an exam to discover the cause.
  • Persistent Upper Abdominal Pain Combined With Feelings of Depression: This is a common presentation of pancreatic cancer. The pain may be dull and easy to push into the background. And depression is such a common symptom in women we may think it is normal. If it is not normal for you, seek care.
  • Low Back Pain: A dull and persistent ache in the low back or sensations similar to labor pain may signal ovarian or uterine cancer. See your physician for a complete exam.
  • Unexplained or Persistent Fever: Do you have a fever for no apparent reason? Do you find yourself hot, sweaty, fatigued with no obvious signs of infection, cold or flu? A fever of unexplained origin may signal many different diseases, including many cancers. If you have a fever that persists for more than seven days, even if it comes in waves and tides, see your health care provider to discover the cause.
  • Persistent Cough: If you have a cough, even a mild one, that lingers and is there day after day, this may be a sign of lung or throat cancers. While you have allergies, acid reflux or are suffering side effects of medications, if you experience even a mild cough for a period of three to four weeks that just does not go away, get a thorough medical exam. If you are coughing up blood, seek care right away.
  • Persistent Changes in Bowels: If you find that you are experiencing ongoing constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating, feelings of pressure, blood in your stools, changes in frequency and ease of bowel movements, or feelings of pressure in the lower abdomen, you may have uterine, cervical, ovarian or colorectal cancer, the most common cancers of the lower body in women.
  • Persistent Digestive Upset: Feelings of indigestion, nausea or upper abdominal discomfort, feelings of fullness and pressure, being unable to swallow or keep food down, vomiting after eating or coughing up blood may be associated with cancers of the throat, esophagus, stomach, liver, galbladder or pancreas. Because these symptoms are also associated with common, less serious conditions, they are easy to ignore. It is always best to get a complete, thorough and thoughtful medical exam when symptoms linger for three to four weeks. If bleeding is present, seek care immediately.
  • Pelvic Pain: Pain in the area below the navel may be associated with endometrial (uterine) cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, vaginal cancer or colorectal cancer. This pain will be persistent and not change with your monthly menstrual cycle. You may also experience pain with sexual activity and intercourse or during bowel movements.
  • Unexplained Persistent Pain: Unexplained, persistent pain in any fixed location may be a sign of cancer. Do not ignore it.
  • Parts one and two offer you a 16-point "Healthy Woman Checklist" to review each month. Use it. Save your own life. Share this list with your mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, grandmothers and woman friends.

    To learn more about Integrative Cancer Care and to listen to Dr. Nalini talk about Promoting Breast Health, click here.

    References:

    What You Need to Know About Cancer Symptoms. National Cancer Institute

    National Breast Cancer Foundation: Signs and Symptoms

    Colorectal Cancer Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment: National Institutes for Health Library

    Cancer Quest Skin Cancer Symptoms and Detection

    Mayo Clinic: Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

    Information provided is for educational purposes and it is not meant to substitute the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider. Information and statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease

    For more by Dr. Nalini Chilkov, click here.

    For more on women's health, click here.

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