Cancer Symptoms That Women Need to Know

Many types of gynecologic cancers produce symptoms early enough that they can be detected and successfully treated. But when the symptoms are ignored or not noticed, that delay in treatment can sometimes prove to be fatal.

That is why women need to be vigilant about any symptoms that they're experiencing. Listen to your bodies! If you are experiencing something abnormal, see your doctor. Chances are the symptoms aren't cancer-related, but it's better to be safe.


Pelvic Pain

woman with abdominal pain

BSIP/UIG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Pelvic pain is characterized by pain or pressure below the navel that is persistent and doesn't just occur during premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or while you have your period.

Pelvic pain is associated with endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, fallopian tube cancer, and vaginal cancer.


Abdominal Swelling and Bloating

Bloated woman

Abdominal swelling and bloating are two of the more common symptoms of ovarian cancer. It is also the symptom that is most often ignored. When should you be concerned? If the bloating is so bad that you can't button your pants or even have to go up a size, it may be worth talking to your doctor.


Persistent Lower Back Pain

Woman holding her lower back in pain

Dirima/Getty Images

Lower back pain often feels like a dull ache. Yet some women also describe it as feeling similar to having labor pains. Lower back pain may be a symptom of ovarian cancer.


Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

pile of tampons

Image Source/Getty Images

Abnormal vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom that's experienced by women when they have gynecologic cancer. Heavy periods, bleeding between periods, and bleeding during and after sex are all considered abnormal vaginal bleeding. These symptoms are linked to cervical cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer.


Persistent Fever

Sick woman taking her temperature
Sam Edwards / Getty Images

If a fever does not go away, lasting for more than seven days on and off, it should be reported to your doctor. A stubborn fever is often a symptom of cancer, but keep in mind that a fever may also be a symptom of many other benign conditions.


Persistent Stomach Upset or Bowel Changes

Woman looking concerned in bathroom
Domino/The Image Bank/Getty Images

If you experience constipation, diarrhea, blood in the stool, gas, thinner stools, or just a general change in your bowel habits, see your doctor. Also look out for any rectal bleeding and the feeling that your bowel doesn't empty all the way after a bowel movement. Depending on when they occur and how long they last, certain symptoms could be due to something you're eating (like maybe you've become lactose intolerant or you have celiac disease), irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease. Or they may be due to symptoms of gynecological cancer or colon cancer.


Unintentional Weight Loss

Bathroom scales on tiled floor
Image Source / Getty Images

Losing 10 or more pounds without trying may be a nice surprise, but it isn't normal. Although a woman's weight may fluctuate throughout the month, any sudden and unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more should be reported to your doctor.


Vulva or Vaginal Abnormalities

woman with pelvic pain laying down

 BSIP/Getty Images

With vulvar or vaginal abnormalities, you should be aware of any sores, blisters, changes in skin color, or discharge. You should examine your vulva and vagina regularly to look for any abnormalities like these.


Changes in the Breast

woman performing a self-breast exam

Ian Hootan/Getty Images

During your monthly breast self-exam, you should look for lumps, tenderness, soreness, nipple discharge, dimpling, redness, or swelling. Report any changes to your doctor as soon as possible.



Woman relaxing on sofa
Tara Moore/Taxi/Getty Images

Fatigue is one of the most commonly experienced cancer symptoms. It is usually more common when ​the cancer has advanced, but it can still occur in the early stages. Any type of fatigue that prevents you from doing normal daily activities needs to be evaluated by a doctor.

Was this page helpful?