60 Percent of Women Don't Know These Key Cancer Symptoms, Study Says

Early intervention is everything. Get to know these overlooked symptoms.

It's Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month, and if that comes as news to you, it's a pretty sure bet that there's room for growth in your gynecological cancer awareness. This type of cancer is not just something that happens to other women: you or someone close to you could be impacted, which is exactly what makes knowing the signs and symptoms so important.

According to American Cancer Society, over 100,000 Americans are diagnosed with gynecological cancer annually, resulting in over 30,000 deaths—many of which could be avoided with early detection. Now, a recent survey conducted by the British women's health organization Lady Garden Foundation has found that most people don't know which types of cancer are even considered gynecological cancer—let alone how to prevent them.

Given a list of 19 common symptoms of gynecological cancer, survey respondents revealed huge gaps in their understanding of what to look out for. It makes sense—it's not exactly something most people talk about. So, in the spirit of open dialogue (and saving lives!), here they are: the six gynecological cancer symptoms most people don't know about, but should. And for more symptoms to know, check out the 20 Most Overlooked Cancer Symptoms, According to Doctors.


Stacks of toilet paper

According to the Clearity Foundation, which works to improve survival rates and quality of life for those with gynecological cancer, constipation can be a sign of ovarian cancer. "This could be because the cancer has spread to the colon or because pressure from fluid buildup could be affecting the area," they explain. Talk with your doctor if you notice any long term changes in your bowel habits. And for more on gastric symptoms, check out Everything Your Stomach Tells You About Your Health.

Feeling Bloated

young woman suffering from stomach cramps at home on couch

While it's normal to feel bloated after eating certain foods, or during certain times in your menstrual cycle, bloating can also be a sign of gynecological cancer. While some people experience minor bloating, British charity Ovarian Cancer Action explains that in some cases, "visible masses that could be similar in size to a football can be seen in women's abdomens and may even be mistaken for a pregnancy bump." If you notice abnormal bloating, talk to your doctor about a screening.

Frequent Urination

Woman in the bathroom

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out, having to urinate more often than usual could be an indication of either ovarian or vaginal cancer. According to the Clearity Foundation, this is because fluid buildup around the bladder can create extra pressure, making it necessary to use the restroom more often. And for more on silent symptoms, check out the 20 Surprising Cancer Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore.

Weight Gain

Woman pinching her stomach and looking in the mirror because she gained weight

Though weight loss is more frequently associated with cancer, women with ovarian cancer sometimes gain unexplained weight instead. Often this is because fatigue leads to lower physical activity levels. Once treatment has begun, some patients also report gaining weight as a result of anxiety surrounding one's illness or diet changes during chemotherapy.

Weight Loss

Woman stepping on scale to check weight

Weight loss is associated with many types of cancer, due to the treatment side-effects of chemotherapy. However, even before medical intervention, gynecological cancer can trigger weight loss. If you haven't changed your diet or levels of physical activity but have lost 10 or more pounds without explanation, speak with your doctor. And for more on weight loss, check out these 11 Signs Your Rapid Weight Loss is Something Serious.

Extreme Fatigue

tired woman

As one study points out, over half of women being treated for gynecological cancers develop statistically significant fatigue. Surprisingly, younger women report fatigue more often than older patients, though in both cases, patients frequently report experiencing fatigue years after their battle with cancer is over. If you're experiencing unexplained, long term fatigue, speak with a medical professional about its possible causes.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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