7 Symptoms Women Should Never Ignore

  • Putting Your Health First
    As a woman, you’re probably busy taking care of work, family, home, and everything in between. It can be all too easy to ignore or put off caring for your own needs. But when it comes to your health, it’s important to place yourself first. Act quickly if you experience any of the following symptoms.

  • 1. Shortness of Breath
    Heart disease is a leading cause of death in women. But we often dismiss symptoms, thinking they’ll just go away. In addition to shortness of breath, watch for other heart attack symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure, back or jaw pain, nausea, and cold sweats. If you suspect a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

  • 2. Sudden Numbness
    If you have sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, call 911. You may be having a stroke. Other stroke signs include sudden confusion or difficulty speaking, trouble seeing out of one eye, and problems walking. Make sure others around you know the symptoms of stroke. It can be difficult to recognize it in yourself.

  • 3. Heavy or Painful Periods
    When it comes to your monthly cycle, you know what’s normal for you. If you experience heavy or painful periods that are out of the ordinary, it’s time to see your doctor. These symptoms can signal gynecological problems like uterine fibroids—the most common noncancerous tumors in women of childbearing age. There are treatments for uterine fibroids and other gynecological problems known to cause heavy or painful periods.

  • 4. Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
    In addition, if you experience bleeding between periods or bleeding after menopause, go to your gynecologist. Although abnormal bleeding can occur for many different reasons, gynecological cancers like cervical or uterine cancer are among them. Endometrial hyperplasia—when the uterine lining grows thick—is a noncancerous cause of abnormal bleeding.

  • 5. Pain During Sex
    Is lovemaking no longer as enjoyable as it used to be? Pain during sex can be due to a number of issues. One to be aware of is endometriosis—a condition that can lead to infertility. Endometriosis is when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus starts to grow outside of the uterus. In addition to painful intercourse, watch for pelvic pain, extremely painful periods, and pain when you go to the bathroom. Hormone therapy is usually the first line of treatment.

  • 6. Skin Changes
    Have you noticed that a mole or freckle has changed color, size or shape? If so, get it checked by a doctor right away. Skin changes like these may be a melanoma—a deadly form of skin cancer. Thankfully, it can be treated successfully if found early. Make monthly skin self-exams part of your routine, just like you do breast exams. This way, you’ll know when something isn’t right. If you haven’t had a full-body skin exam before, schedule a skin cancer screening with a dermatologist or your primary care doctor.

  • 7. Nipple Discharge
    It’s important to pay attention to your breasts. In addition to checking for lumps or changes in breast size or shape, watch for nipple discharge. Discharge—especially bloody or clear discharge—can be a sign of breast cancer. Don’t delay getting checked by your doctor.

  • Listen to Your Intuition
    If you experience any symptom that doesn’t feel quite right, listen to your intuition. You know your body best and can sense when something may be wrong. Remember, seeking care early can help ensure the best outcome possible.

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7 Symptoms Women Should Never Ignore
  1. Common reproductive health concerns. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/WomensRH/HealthConcerns.html
  2. Heart disease fact sheet. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/heart-disease.html#k
  3. Reproductive health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/the-healthy-woman/reproductive_health.pdf
  4. Signs and symptoms of cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/signs-and-symptoms-of-cancer
  5. Stroke signs and symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/signs_symptoms.htm  
  6. Symptoms and signs. National Breast Cancer Foundation. http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-symptoms-and-signs
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Last Review Date: 2019 Feb 19
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