There are some symptoms that are clearly associated with serious health conditions. For example, chest pain, bleeding, persistent cough, and high fever are all usual symptoms that something is wrong with your health, and the body is warning you of potential trouble. However, sometimes, the body may also indicate that something is wrong in a subtler way. Many times, women are unable to understand these subtle signs and fail to recognize that these symptoms require urgent medical attention. Here are some common symptoms women should never ignore.
1. Abdominal Bloating
In most women, abdominal bloating is a common problem experienced during their menstrual cycle. In some women, certain food allergies or sensitivities can also cause abdominal bloating for a day or two. However, chronic abdominal bloating that lasts for over a week or ten days could be a potential early sign of ovarian cancer.(1, 2)
Here are some other symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Difficulty eating
- Feeling full very quickly after eating
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Postmenopausal bleeding
- Persistent lack of energy
- A feeling of being overtired even after not doing much
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially in premenopausal women
- Abnormal vaginal discharge in premenopausal women
These symptoms are quite easily overlooked as most premenopausal women consider them to be symptoms of their menstrual cycle, especially if they have an irregular cycle. It is, therefore, common that many cases of ovarian cancer do not get diagnosed until the cancer has already reached an advanced stage. This is why it is necessary to consult your gynecologist if you experience any abnormal or unusual abdominal bloating.
2. Swollen Breast or Red/Purple Spots on Breast
Swelling in the breasts is quite normal in women, especially just before their periods or during pregnancy. However, if there is any new or unusual swelling, then you must consult your doctor. Rapid onset of swelling or appearance of red or purple spots or any kind of discoloration on the breast could be an indication of inflammatory breast cancer.(3)
This is why it is essential to consult your doctor at the earliest if you notice any swelling, skin changes, or any other changes in the breast.
3. Abnormal Shortness of Breath
Everyone feels out of breath after running or climbing up the stairs. However, feeling short of breath after doing some light work could be an early symptom of heart or lung conditions. If you suddenly find yourself feeling short of breath at the slightest of work, then you should bring it up with your doctor.
A common cause of shortness of breath could be coronary ischemia, which is a lack of adequate blood flow to the heart muscle. This is usually caused by a partial or complete blockage of the arteries. Both a partial and complete blockage of the arteries can cause a stroke or heart attack.(6)
Chest pain or chest discomfort, nausea, and lightheadedness are other warning signs of a heart attack. If you experience shortness of breath and these other symptoms, then you should seek immediate medical assistance.
4. Black or Bloody Stools
Black stools or noticing blood in your stools should not be taken lightly. Stool color varies and also depends on what you are eating. Certain medications, such as diarrhea medicine and iron supplements, can even turn your stool tarry or black.
If these reasons don’t apply to you and you still have a black stool, then it could be an indication of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Bloody or maroon-colored stool indicates bleeding in the lower digestive tract.(7) These are symptoms that should be checked out by a doctor at the earliest to detect any internal bleeding.
Bleeding in either part of the gastrointestinal tract may be caused by the following:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Other gastrointestinal conditions
5. Persistent Fatigue
Everyone goes through bouts of tiredness due to many factors. However, if you have been feeling exhausted at all times with no clear reason, then it could be a good idea to see your doctor. Constant fatigue could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Here are some common health conditions that can cause fatigue:
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Thyroid disorder
- Sleep apnea
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Your doctor will assess your chronic fatigue symptoms and help you understand the underlying cause of this unusual tiredness.
Some of the symptoms tend to become common in women after the age of 40, but in most cases, they are nothing to worry about, especially if they are part of your usual routine. However, when you experience a sudden and chronic change in your health, such as rapid heartbeat, swelling in the breast, unusual fatigue, nausea, headache, or any other such symptoms, then it is a good idea to consult a doctor. If there is an underlying medical condition, remember that the earlier it is diagnosed, the better chances you have of recovery.
- Goff, B., 2012. Symptoms associated with ovarian cancer. Clinical obstetrics and gynecology, 55(1), pp.36-42.
- Koldjeski, D., Kirkpatrick, M.K., Swanson, M., Everett, L. and Brown, S., 2003, November. Ovarian cancer: early symptom patterns. In Oncology nursing forum (Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 927-933). ONCOLOGY NURSING SOCIETY.
- Jaiyesimi, I.A., Buzdar, A.U. and Hortobagyi, G., 1992. Inflammatory breast cancer: a review. Journal of clinical oncology, 10(6), pp.1014-1024.
- Robertson, F.M., Bondy, M., Yang, W., Yamauchi, H., Wiggins, S., Kamrudin, S., Krishnamurthy, S., Le‐Petross, H., Bidaut, L., Player, A.N. and Barsky, S.H., 2010. Inflammatory breast cancer: the disease, the biology, the treatment. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 60(6), pp.351-375.
- AbdelHadi, M.S. and Bukharie, H.A., 2005. Breast infections in non-lactating women. Journal of family & community medicine, 12(3), p.133.
- Shortness of Breath Without Chest Pain Can Signify the Presence of High Risk Heart Disease. 2020. Shortness Of Breath Without Chest Pain Can Signify The Presence Of High Risk Heart Disease. [online] Available at: <https://www.cedars-sinai.org/newsroom/shortness-of-breath-without-chest-pain-can-signify-the-presence-of-high-risk-heart-disease/> [Accessed 8 April 2020].
- Zuckerman, G.R., Trellis, D.R., Sherman, T.M. and Clouse, R.E., 1995. An objective measure of stool color for differentiating upper from lower gastrointestinal bleeding. Digestive diseases and sciences, 40(8), pp.1614-1621.
- Simple Steps for Elderly Women to Maintain Health
- List of Top 10 Women’s Health Issues & Ways to Fix Them
- Can Smoggy Air Affect The Menstrual Health of Teenage Girls & Women
- Essential Screenings for Women
- Low Hemoglobin Levels in Women: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Effects on Menstrual Cycle
- List of Superfoods for Women’s Health