Gynecological Symptoms You Can't Ignore
Women experience changes in their bodies throughout their entire lives.
Some of these changes are due to
aging. Others are the result of
hormonal changes during
While it may feel awkward to mention unusual symptoms in “unmentionable”
places to your doctor, these changes often provide important clues to
your health. If you notice any unusual changes in your body, talk with
your doctor to make sure that what you’re experiencing isn’t serious.
Every woman is different, so it’s important to know what is normal
for you so you can recognize changes that may signal a possible health
problem. Here are a few gynecological symptoms you should not ignore.
Pelvic or abdominal pain. Only about 20 percent of pelvic pain women experience is actually
due to gynecological problems, such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
conditions and urinary or bowel problems can also cause pelvic pain.
Abnormal vaginal discharge. All women have vaginal discharge. It’s nature’s way of keeping
your genital area clean and healthy. Normal discharge is white or clear,
with little or no
odor. If your vaginal discharge changes in color, amount or consistency,
or it takes on a noticeable
odor, see your doctor.
Breast changes. Worrisome breast symptoms include a change in size or shape of the breast,
skin changes on the breast, a lump, or changes in the nipple (including
discharge). The symptoms
of breast cancer and less serious breast problems are similar. In fact,
only 20 percent of
breast lumps are due to cancer, so don’t let fear of a cancer diagnosis
keep you from discussing
any breast changes with your doctor.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding. See your doctor if you experience heavy bleeding that lasts longer
than normal, occurs more frequently than every three weeks, after sex,
or between periods. You
should also pay attention to spotting or bleeding in between periods.
Pain during sexual intercourse. Don’t be embarrassed. According to the American College of
Obstetrics and Gynecology, nearly three-quarters of women will experience
pain during sex
at some point in their lives, particularly after menopause.
Difficult or painful urination, excessive chronic bloating, or painful periods.
CHANGES DURING MENOPAUSE
Menopause is the natural end to a woman’s childbearing years. You
are in menopause after completing 12 months without a period. For some
women, this transition is uneventful. However, up to 40 percent of women
experience one or more disruptive symptoms, including:
- Vaginal burning or itching
- Decreased libido during sex
- Painful intercourse
- Bleeding after sex
- More frequent vaginal or urinary tract infections
- Frequent urination
If you are a pre- or post-menopausal woman and are uncomfortable due to
the changes in your body, talk to your doctor. There are many healthy
ways to address menopausal symptoms. You should also see your doctor if
you have any vaginal bleeding once your periods stop.
GYNECOLOGICAL CANCER SCREENING
Health experts agree that women should undergo regular screenings for cervical
cancer. If you are at increased risk (for example, you have a family history
of cancer), your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent screening.
The goal of screening is to find cancer early when treatment is more effective.
Women should undergo Pap tests for cervical cancer screening between the
ages of 21 and 65 or between 30 and 65 in combination with human papillomavirus
(HPV) testing. Ask your doctor about the right screening test and frequency for you.
Currently, there is no reliable screening for ovarian cancer. If you experience
bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating, urinary changes
(changes in urgency or frequency), or you find you feel full quickly after
eating, see your doctor to rule out ovarian cancer.
- Learn what is normal for YOU
- See your doctor if you experience new or abnormal symptoms
- Don’t keep embarrassing gynecological problems to yourself—your
doctor can help
- Ask your doctor about the right screening tests and frequency for you