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Most women are eager to demand that a spouse or child visit the doctor at the first sign of a sniffle, yet when it comes to taking care of themselves tend to look the other way. Between meetings, car pools, practices and errands, adding something as simple as doctor’s visit or God forbid a trip to the ER seems impossible. However, while you may be able to blow off the common cold there are a few symptoms that could be warning signs of something serious. Here are the top ten symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.

  • A headache that not even Excedrin could rival… While the cause for most headaches can easily be chalked up to sinus issues, migraines, PMS or one too many cocktails the night before, if you have a headache that’s so severe it enables you from doing anything and is not accompanied by auras or other migraine symptoms, you may be experiencing a brain aneurysm. A brain aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain. While most do not rupture or cause any problems some can be life threatening and require immediate medical attention. If your headache is accompanied by nausea, vomiting or confusion, call 911 immediately or ask someone to take you to the nearest ER.
  • Severe stabbing pain on your right side… Most often, pain on the ride side of the abdomen is a sign of excess gas. However, if the pain becomes unbearable or is accompanied by nausea or fever, you may have appendicitis or and ovarian cyst. Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. If left untreated, the appendix will eventually burst spilling infectious material into the abdominal cavity. If your pain is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever, constipation or diarrhea, head to the ER pronto. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets within or on the surface of an ovary. While most will disappear in time, there is always a chance that one could rupture. If your pain is accompanied by pain that radiates to lower back, fullness in the abdomen, fever or vomiting, your best option is to head to the ER for an ultrasound.  
  • Reoccurring chest pain that feels like heartburn… Sure, the pain you are feeling could be the result of way too much Mexican food, but if the feeling comes and goes over several hours and if you’re not prone to heart burn, you could be experiencing a heart attack. Because heart attack symptoms are much milder and harder to detect in women than in men, and estimated 200,000 women die each year of a heart attack. If your feeling of heart burn is also accompanied by shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness or a squeezing pain that moves from your chest to the neck, shoulder or jaw, call 911 immediately.
  • Acute fatigue lasting more than two weeks… Every woman has her days when she feels run down. Everything from lack of sleep to stress can bring on fatigue. However, it could also be hypothyroidism.  Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain important hormones. While it is not life threatening, it can cause several other disturbances in your body’s chemistry. If in addition to acute fatigue you are also experiencing an increased sensitivity to cold, heavier periods than normal, unexplained weight gain or brittle fingernails and hair, make an appointment with you OBGYN or family doctor ASAP. A simple blood test will do the trick and the condition is easily managed with medication.
  • Change in bowel habits… As a woman, you may notice that everything from what you eat to how you feel that day affects your bowel habits. However, if along with a change in habits you are also experiencing pelvic pain, abdominal pressure, loss of appetite or low back pain, it could be ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is one of the hardest cancers to detect because it rarely causes symptoms in the early stages. If you are experiencing these symptoms, make an appointment with your OBGYN as soon as possible. Simple tests can clarify the diagnosis and the earlier this condition is caught the better.
  • Your heart won’t stop skipping a beat… Any woman who’s ever caught a glance of Gerard Butler with his shirt off may testify to this feeling, but consistent heart palpitations could be the symptom of atrial fibrillation or irregular heart beat. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and/or rapid heart rate that can cause poor blood flow to the body. While this is typically not a life threatening condition, it should not be taken lightly as it can cause serious issues if left untreated. If your irregular heartbeat also includes decreased blood pressure, lightheadedness, dizziness or confusion, see a doctor right away.
  • Pelvic pain with intercourse… Pain during intercourse is usually just a result of a lack of lubrication, however if it occurs mostly with deep penetration and includes bleeding between periods, pain with bowel movements or urination, bloating or nausea you could have endometriosis. Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus begins to grow outside of your uterus. The condition is not life threatening but often times can lead to infertility if left untreated. If you suspect endometriosis, visit your OBGYN. You will likely need a laparoscopy (a mild, outpatient surgery) for an accurate diagnosis. This condition is treatable with birth control, surgery and other medicines.
  • Changing moles… While you may think all you have left from those trips to the beach are great memories, you may have something more permanent you’re holding onto; skin cancer. Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of cells usually caused by exposure to sunlight or tanning beds. The three major types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. While the first two types are usually easily treated, melanoma can spread quickly to other organs and can be deadly.Basal cell carcinoma usually appears on face, ears and scalp and appear to be a pearly or waxy bump, or a brown scar like lesions. Squamous cell carcinoma usually appears on face, lips and hands and takes the shape of a firm, red nodule or a flat lesion with a crusty surface. Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body and can appear as a new mark or change the appearance of an old mole or freckle. Melanoma usually takes the shape of large brown spots with speckles, a small lesion with an irregular border or any mole that changes in size or color or begins bleeding. To be safe, do regular self checks, schedule a yearly exam with your dermatologist. If you spot anything unusual, see the doctor right away.
  • Breast lumps… Lumpy breasts are very common in women, and most lumps come and go with a woman’s cycle or caffeine intake. However, if the lump you are feeling is more like a small rock or stone, it could be breast cancer. Typically speaking most lumps are nothing serious and many doctors can diagnose from a simple exam. Still, if the lump feels very abnormal to you, or you simply just want to know one way or the other, request a mammogram. With a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
  • Swelling in leg… Sure, eating an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting may leave your whole body feeling like a puffy marshmallow, but if you’re noticing an unusual swelling in one leg it could be sign of cervical cancer. While the chance of death from cervical cancer is not what it used to be, it is still considered life threatening. If you are noticing vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause, have a watery, bloody and foul smelling discharge or experience increased pain with intercourse, see your OBGYN right away to have a pap test done.