15 Cancer Symptoms Women Often Ignore

Women’s bodies are always changing. Sometimes changes that seem normal can be signs of cancer, though.

The key is to pay attention to your body so you can notice when something’s different, says Robyn Andersen, PhD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “New symptoms indicate something has changed in your body, and you want to know what that means.”

So, what should you watch for?

Dermatologist using magnifying glass to examine a mole

1. Breast changes

Most breast lumps aren’t cancer, but your doctor should always check them. Let her know about these changes, too:

  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • Nipples that turn inward
  • Nipple discharge
  • Redness or scaling of your nipple or breast skin

To look for the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your medical history. You may also have tests like a mammogram or a biopsy, when doctors remove a tiny piece of tissue for testing.

2. Bloating

“Women are natural bloaters,” says Marleen Meyers, MD, an oncologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. “It’s OK to wait a week or two to see if it goes away.”

If your symptoms don’t get better with time, or if they happen with weight loss or bleeding, see a doctor. Constant bloating can sometimes mean ovarian cancer. You’ll have a pelvic exam as well as blood tests, and sometimes an ultrasound, to look for the cause of the problem, Andersen says.

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