11 Cancer Symptoms Women Shouldn’t Ignore


Women become accustomed to changes in their bodies. With monthly cycles, pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, and the aging process, change becomes a normal part of a woman’s life. But what changes could be possible signs of cancer?

Keep reading to learn 11 symptoms of cancer you shouldn’t ignore. Some may surprise you.

Abdominal bloating

While bloating is not uncommon for women, talk to your doctor if it continues for more than two weeks and you start noticing the need for a larger belt or pants size. Bloating can be a sign of ovarian cancer.

New headaches that wake you up

Nearly all women experience headaches from time to time. But if a headache comes on abruptly, especially waking you from sleep, it could be a sign of a more serious condition and warrants a talk with your doctor.

Discharge from nipples

If you’re not breastfeeding, any discharge from the nipples should be checked out by your doctor. In most cases this is normal or caused by a minor condition, but it could indicate something serious, especially if the discharge is bloody.

Unintentional weight loss

Most unintended weight loss is not cancer. However, if you’re losing weight and haven’t made changes to your exercise routine or diet, this could be an early sign of colon or other digestive cancers. In addition, if you feel full before finishing a normal-sized meal, this is another sign of a potentially serious condition.

Changes in fingernails

You may be surprised to learn that changes in your fingernails can signal several types of cancer. A dark streak under the nail can sometimes indicate skin cancer, while pale or white nails may be a sign of liver cancer.

Night sweats not associated with menopause

Night sweats, or hot flashes that occur during the night, are common during menopause. When night sweats occur at other stages of life, they could indicate a medical condition, including cancers like leukemia or lymphomas. If you are experiencing night sweats, especially if accompanied by unexplained fevers, talk to your doctor who can help determine a cause.

Unexplained bruising or bleeding

If you’re noticing bruises in places where you haven’t experienced a bump or injury, this could be a sign of several conditions, including leukemia.

Weakness and fatigue

If you feel exhausted even after getting adequate amounts of sleep, talk to your doctor. Overall fatigue and weakness is a symptom of many medical conditions, among them, several kinds of cancer.

Postmenopausal vaginal bleeding

Any bleeding or spotting after menopause should be evaluated by your doctor as soon as possible. In most cases, the cause is not serious, but post-menopausal bleeding can be an indication of endometrial cancer.

New back pain without an injury that worsens with time

Most women occasionally experience low back pain, but if the pain is not associated with an injury, or continues more than two weeks, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor. Low back pain is a sign of several cancers.

Difficulty swallowing

While stress and other conditions can be associated with trouble swallowing, it can also be a sign of esophageal or throat cancer; and sometimes, one of the first signs of lung cancer.

Prevention and early detection are key

Whether you’re a woman or a man, it’s important to always be in tune with any changes in your body or energy levels. The earlier you notice a problem, the more quickly it can be addressed, increasing your chances for healing.

Above all, making healthy lifestyle choices to reduce your chance of getting cancer is something everyone can start doing today.

author name

Matthew C. Brennan, MD

Matthew C. Brennan, MD, is a medical oncologist with LG Health Physicians Hematology & Medical Oncology. Dr. Brennan’s areas of special interest include genitourinary and lung cancers.

Education: Medical School–Penn State College of Medicine; Residency–Thomas Jefferson University; Fellowship–Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute.

Call: 717-544-9400

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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