Should I get checked for cancer?
Cancer can affect various tissues in the body, causing a range of signs and symptoms, such as weight loss, fatigue, skin changes, and a persistent cough. Anyone who experiences persistent or worrisome symptoms should consult a doctor.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer was the second leading cause of death in the United States in 2016.
Healthcare providers can run diagnostic tests that identify early-stage cancers. Treatment has a better chance of success when a person receives their cancer diagnosis early.
In this article, we discuss general warning signs of cancer unique to women, men, and cancer type.
Warning signs of cancer in women
Cancers specific to or more common among women include endometrial, cervical, and breast cancers. Warning signs include:
Breast cancer often causes visible changes in the breast tissue, so it is crucial for women to be familiar with the shape, size, and texture of their breasts.
Breast changes to look out for include:-
Dimpling or puckering of the breast skin or nipple
- Nipple discharge
- Redness, swelling, or tenderness of the breast skin or nipple
- Changes in the size or shape of the breast
Women should speak with a healthcare provider if they notice any changes in their breast tissue. The American Cancer Society recommend that women aged 40 years and older have regular mammograms to screen for signs of breast cancer.
Vaginal bleeding between periods
Women who experience regular periods may want to consult their healthcare provider if they experience vaginal bleeding or spotting outside of their usual cycle. Irregular vaginal bleeding may indicate endometrial or cervical cancers.
Women who have gone through menopause should seek immediate medical attention if they have any vaginal bleeding.
Spotting does not always occur as a result of cancer. Hormonal birth control, chronic medical conditions, and stress can also cause spotting.
Women should consider seeking immediate medical attention if they experience spotting alongside the following symptoms:-
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Muscle aches
- Heavy bleeding
Women should start screening at age 50, or earlier if they have a family history of colon or rectal cancer or colon problems that raise their risk.
Screening tests can often find growths called polyps, which can be removed before they turn into cancer. These tests also can find colon and rectal cancer earlier, when treatments are more likely to be successful.
There are several different tests that screen for colon and rectal cancer, including take-home options. Talk to your doctor about when you should start and which tests might be right for you.
At the time of menopause, all women should be told about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer and strongly encouraged to report any vaginal bleeding, discharge, or spotting to their doctor.
Some women – because of their history – may need to consider having a yearly endometrial biopsy. Talk with a doctor about your history.
Women ages 55 to 74 who are or were heavy smokers should talk to a doctor about whether a low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer is right for them.
People who have never smoked or who quit long ago can and do also get lung cancer, but for them the risks of screening usually outweigh the benefits.
Screening does not make it OK to keep using tobacco. If you or the women in your life smoke, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for help quitting.
All women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21.
Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. They should not be tested for HPV unless it’s needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have both a Pap test and an HPV test every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, but it’s also OK to have a Pap test alone every 3 years.
Women over age 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer or pre-cancer should continue to be screened according to the recommendations of a doctor.
Women who have had their uterus and cervix removed in a hysterectomy and have no history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer should not be screened.
Women who have had the HPV vaccine should still follow the screening recommendations for their age group.
Women who are at high risk for cervical cancer may need to be screened more often. Women at high risk might include those with HIV infection, organ transplant, or exposure to the drug DES. They should talk with a doctor or nurse about what screening plan is best for them.
Be aware of all moles and spots on your skin, and report any changes to a doctor right away.
Have a skin exam done during your regular health check-ups.
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