Aside from experiencing frequent episodes of nausea and a missed period, Lizzy started to feel a small belly bump that finally got her to take a pregnancy test. Voila, the result was positive and she and her husband couldn’t be any happier. After four years of marriage, they’re having a baby at last!
The next night, Lizzy was fast asleep when strong and painful abdominal cramps lured her from sleep. The threatening sight of blood blotting the mattress underneath her sent shivers up her spine causing her to scream. Her husband got jolted from sleep and saw what was happening. They rushed to a nearby hospital, scared for their baby’s life.
Medical treatments and diagnostic tests were done to address Lizzy’s and her baby’s current health condition. Bleeding had stopped, but nothing prepared the couple for what they’re about to discover. The lab results showed no baby; instead, a malignant tumor in her left ovary.
Cancer: what you don’t know can kill you
It must be utterly disheartening for Lizzy and her husband to experience such short-lived happiness and be greeted by a daunting illness. Cancer silently crept its way to crushing the couple’s hopes and turning what could have been wonderful family vacations to chemotherapy sessions and frequent hospital visits and confinements.
In fact, not only Lizzy but millions of women all over the world have been suffering from cancerous conditions in the female reproductive system. Female reproductive cancer commonly manifests overt signs and symptoms during late stages when cancer cells have spread extensively. Women, then, don’t become aware until it’s too late. This is why female reproductive cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality and disability among women. Its increasing prevalence pushes health organizations and concerned individuals to raise women’s health consciousness and awareness regarding this kind of illnesses.
Though it hasn’t been ruled out what really causes cancer, there are associated risk factors that predispose a person to developing the disease. Exposure to chemical, physical and biological agents such as radiation, food preservatives, alcohol, nicotine, genetic inheritance and other so-called carcinogens, may increase a person’s susceptibility to cancer. However, a person may still have cancer despite the absence of these risk factors. Certain lifestyle modifications may be taken as precautionary measures to, at least, lessen a person’s risk of developing such illness.
Women tend to ignore cancer signs and mistake them for minor conditions
Female reproductive cancer signs may easily get mistaken for pregnancy (they may cause false positive results in pregnancy tests) or conditions as simple as PMS or the common cold. These cancer symptoms that women end up neglecting may be early signs of a developing tumor in the ovaries or atypical cell formation in the cervix or uterus. Below are some of the cancer signs women often ignore and mistake for other conditions.
1.Unusual irregular periods– Missing your period for a few successive months with pregnancy already ruled out must get you rushing to your trusted gynecologist for evaluation. In other cases, menstrual period lasting for more than two weeks may also indicate grave abnormalities.
2.Unexplained heavy bleeding– Heavy discharge of blood and passing of blood clots may indicate endometrial or uterine cancer.
3.Unusual spotting– Some may consider unusual spotting as implantation bleed (when the fertilized egg attaches itself into the uterus). But unless you are expecting (or even if you are), spotting outside your period dates should be enough reason to contact your private OB/GYN specialist.
4.Abnormal vaginal discharge– Passing of discolored, foul-smelling or an unusually hefty amount of vaginal discharges may be indicative of cervical abnormalities or uterine defects. This may also be sign of vaginal infection but it is always best to consult a reliable gynecologist and avoid erroneous assumptions.
5.Breast tenderness and irregularities– Unusual breast deformities and abnormal nipple discharges are the main signs of a developing malignancy in the breast. Pain and tenderness often are late signs.
6.Abdominal bloating– Women may think of bloating as a normal occurrence especially when they’re using water-retaining hormonal contraceptives. Sometimes a developing cancerous mass may be confused with a growing fetus. Once you experience frequent and unusual abdominal bloating, have it immediately checked.
7.Rapid and unexplained weight loss– This is one commonly ignored cancer sign, simply because women love to lose weight especially those with extra pounds. But occurrence of weight loss, despite the absence of exercise and dieting and any intention to lose body weight, is alarming enough. Cancer cells, since they quickly multiply and are fast-growing, use up a good amount of calories in our bodies leading to rapid weight loss.
8.Loss of appetite– Since the spread of cancer cells cause changes in our metabolic patterns and energy levels, sudden decrease in appetite can be expected. Most women consider loss of appetite as a result of hormonal imbalance and mood changes, or as an effect of fleeting pseudo-anorexia.
9.Unusual abdominal cramps– Ovarian and endometrial cancer can cause painful abdominal cramping episodes, and this is usually a late-stage sign.
10.Urinary problems– If you’re unusually experiencing the need to urinate more often than usual, with burning sensation felt, you may have underlying kidney problems or other minor to major system abnormalities. Moreover, growing tumors in the pelvic region where most of the female reproductive organs are located, may also cause urinary urgency.
11.Leg and back pain– The spread of cancer cells may cause pain in the lower back and lower extremities. This may be due to the weighing in of growing malignant masses on nearby nerves.
12.Dyspareunia or painful sex– Due to changes in the cervical lining and vaginal mucosa caused by cancer cells, pain upon sexual intercourse may be felt. Some women naturally experience dyspareunia. But for women who usually don’t, experiencing sudden, unusual pain during sex must be a cause for alarm.
13.Frequent fatigue– Since energy gets used up by growing cancer cells and by the body as it tries to summon its defenses to fight the cancer, lesser amount of energy is left for us to do other activities. This is why cancer patients easily get tired.
Self-diagnosis leads to misdiagnosis that deters early detection and treatment
The problem against early cancer diagnosis, as with other diseases, is the tendency of people to self-diagnose which often leads to misdiagnosis that worsens the real problem and deters treatment.
Regular visits to a credible and trusted obstetrician and gynecologists greatly help in the early detection and early treatment of female reproductive cancers and any other obstetrical and gynecological abnormalities that negatively affect a woman’s overall quality of life. Routine obstetrical and gynecological evaluation also raises women’s health consciousness and awareness, helping them play their many vital societal roles better.
By Debra Wright
Debra Wright is a creative online writer who supplies cyberspace with interesting and informative write-ups about her favourite topics including womens health. A wide reader and ardent web surfer, she believes she can do anything as long as she has an Internet connection. Follow Debra on twitter @debrawrites…