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What are the medical symptoms which a woman should never ignore?


Medical Symptoms that women should never ignore are lumps, painful periods, irregular periods and the list continues. Here I’ve represented most of the symptoms that woman ignores but they should never do. The list could have been gigantic but the importance are given to the most common symptoms.

Symptoms women in particular shouldn’t ignore :

  • breast cancerLumps on the breast that are new and feel hard and/or stuck to the surface, anything larger than the size of a pea should be checked; a rash on the nipple or new discharge from the nipple; a change in the shape or size of the breast; weight loss. All of these are potential symptoms for breast cancer and should be monitored frequently (monthly). Surgery (such as mastectomy) as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the usual treatment, with hormonal therapy (potentially oestrogen-receptor antagonists like tamoxifen depending on the specific type of cancer) and immunotherapy new and exciting management strategies.


  • Persistent indigestion or nausea; pain during sex; back pain; a change in bowel habits; vaginal bleeding, especially after the menopause; constant fatigue; irregular menstruation; weight loss. All of these symptoms are potentially worrisome for ovarian cancerIt is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. The same types of treatment as breast cancer.


  • Painful periods; pain during intercourse or on bowel movements or urination; excessive bleeding; chronic fatigue; nausea and vomiting; headaches and low-grade fevers. These symptoms are typical of endometriosis, when tissue covering the uterus gets displaced and grows in other places, which can include the ovaries and Fallopian tubes but also other parts of the body. Treatment involves the management of two things: endometriosis-induced pain (with surgery, hormones or painkillers) and the associated infertility (surgery or IVF)


  • Irregular periods or no periods at all; difficulty getting pregnant; excessive hair growth (usually on the face, chest and back); weight gain; thinning and hair loss from the head; oily skin or acne. These symptoms are common in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is due to elevated male hormones (androgens) in females. Treatment is weight loss, oral contraceptives (to lessen masculine hair growth) and diabetes medication such as metformin. Associated infertility is managed with clomiphene citrate and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

Symptoms no-one should ignore:

  • Weight loss – this in medicine is referred to as a ‘red flag’ symptom as it is commonplace in cancer, especially advanced cancer.


  • Chest pain which feels heavy and radiates to the jaw or arm, along with nausea and vomiting. This is the classic presentation of a heart attack. Chew 300 mg of aspirin if it occurs and call an ambulance ASAP.


  • Speech problems, drooping of the face and inability to lift one arm. This is the classic presentation of a stroke, but can also include numbness, changes in vision etc. Don’t take aspirin as it’s possible there’s a bleed in the brain rather than a clot.


  • Sudden breathlessness. Breathlessness and chest pain on inspiration which comes on instantaneously is troublesome and can be due to a pulmonary embolism (clot thrown off from the leg – check to see if a leg is swollen or red) or pneumothorax (collapsed lung), the latter is common in tall, young individuals and recovery is usually uncomplicated, but in older people it can be serious.


  • Sudden severe headache occurring at the back of the head. This is known as a thunderclap headache, and is any severe headache which takes only seconds or minutes to reach peak intensity. It is usually a sign of a subarachnoid haemorrhage (a very serious type of stroke) or a clot in the large veins at the back of the brain.


  • Cough for more than three weeks. This is particularly worrisome in smokers and the elderly, but everyone should be checked who has a persistent cough.


  • Haemoptysis (coughing up blood). This can be typical of lung malignancy or pulmonary embolism


  • A change in the size or appearance of a skin lesion. This should always be checked in case a cancerous lesion has appeared.


  • Temperature above 38C, high heart rate, breathlessness and confusion. This collection of symptoms points to sepsis, a potentially fatal immune response to microorganisms in the blood which can quickly turn into septic shock (organ failure due to lack of blood perfusion) if not treated ASAP.


  • Persistent difficulty swallowing. Can be a sign of esophageal cancer, especially in the elderly


  • Blood in the stool. This can be a sign at worst of bowel cancer mainly in the elderlybut also other gastrointestinal problems like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis – both inflammatory bowel disease which are diagnosed mostly in younger people.


  • Vomiting blood. This is usually the sign of a serious stomach ulcer but can also be a sign of inflammation or gastric cancer


These are all the symptoms that if you’ve ever faced, you should go seek a doctor asap. Also if you think there are other symptoms that a woman ignores then do write them below.

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