Fall’s approaching, and that doesn’t just mean pumpkin spice lattes and unpacking your boots: September is all about gynecological cancer awareness, and October is devoted to saving second base. Instead of letting you figure it all out on your own, we’ve got the skinny on what to look out for:
September and Your Uterus
September is one lucky month: it’s devoted to ovarian cancer awareness, gynecological cancer awareness (yes, they’re different), and also hosts National Women’s Health & Fitness Day on the 25th. Although there are colored ribbons and places to donate, the next few weeks are more important than you may think:
Did You Know?
According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, over 20,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. Of those, roughly 15,000 will be fatal cases.
Gynecologic cancers, which include ovarian cancer, account for 84,155 diagnoses and 27,813 fatal cases.
Gynecologic cancers include: cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer. Each involves a different set of symptoms and signs, although they all involve the female reproductive system.
The Pap test, performed in most check-ups, only checks for cervical cancer.
Most signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancers can imitate other conditions. This can lead to late detection, which makes treatment more difficult.
Although the statistics can be scary, not every problem you experience down there is going to lead to a diagnosis. At the same time, even a diagnosis of cancer isn’t a sentence to fatality, or even a painful treatment experience. The first and most important step is what September is all about—education and awareness.
The Signs of Breast and Ovarian Cancer
While any sign of distress should have you discussing it with your doctor, there are some signs which have been linked with cancer. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, or have unusual problems, talk with your doctor:
- Abnormal bleeding or discharge
- Pain or pressure in your pelvis
- Abdominal or back pain
- Changes in urination habits
- Itching or burning
- Changes in color or skin (warts, rash, etc)
Even if you’re experiencing several of these symptoms, it may be a different problem altogether. Since the PAP test only checks for cervical cancer, it’s important to discuss with your doctor any and all symptoms you may have—no matter how embarrassing they are. The earlier cancer can be detected, the easier it is to treat.
Gearing Up for October
Perhaps a more well-known cause, breast cancer awareness month is quickly approaching. While you may think you know how to protect yourself, there is no such thing as too much education. For example, did you know:
- About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime, according to Breast Cancer.Org,. Men can also develop breast cancer.
- Breast cancer has the highest fatality rate for cancers in women in the United States. It’s second in commonality of diagnosis to skin cancer.
- In 2011, there were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors within the United States alone.
- About 15% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer also have a relative who was diagnosed. The rest occur in women who have no family history, and is due to a genetic mutation that has occurred with lifestyle and aging.
For such a prominent disease in women, there is still a lot that is unknown. Regular check-ups with your doctor, as well as self-exams, can help detect any problems within breast tissue. Even painless lumps should be investigated; the symptoms of breast cancer, like other cancers, can sometimes be disguised as something else.
In the early stages, breast cancer rarely displays symptoms. Like anything involving your body, however, even the smallest disruption should be investigated by you and your doctor. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Swelling in the armpit
- Lump in the breast or underarm area that persists after a menstrual cycle and may or may not be painful
- Pain or tenderness in the breast
- Noticeable flattening or indentations of the breast
- Any change in color, texture, size, temperature, etc of breast
- Any change in the nipple, such as itching, dimpling, or rash
- Unusual nipple discharge
While the above symptoms may be due to another condition, they are also closely associated with breast cancer. If you’re experiencing any symptoms, or have any concerns, it’s important to talk to your doctor.
Although being diagnosed with cancer can be a terrifying road, you’re not alone. With two months out of the year dedicated to raising funds and awareness, new information and treatments are constantly being discovered. Talking to your doctor immediately about any concerns you may have could be the difference between a minor problem and something more serious, so don’t wait!
For other ways to help, look for a donation center or memorial walk near you.