As a member of the Female Over 40 group, I know we are busier than ever. The pull to multitask our lives – be the perfect wife, mother, employee, boss, student, and caretaker to the world – is only increasing as time goes by. Despite our best efforts we know we cannot do everything, be everything to everyone. The only area we are willing to compromising is ourselves. Even if we manage to squeeze in hair and nail appointments, run to the gym, schedule and keep our annual pap smear and mammogram, we certainly don’t have time to stress over our periods. We want and need them to pass as unnoticed as possible, not interrupting the rapid trot of our fast paced lives. But if we don’t want it all to be brought to a crashing halt, we must be aware of the seven symptoms listed below that WE MUST NOT IGNORE!
1. Change to menstrual flow. A period that is heavier or lighter than normal should be noted.
2. Stronger than normal menstrual cramping. Most women experience some pain during their menstrual cycle, but if you experience more pain than normal during one or more periods, pay attention.
3. Menstrual cramping that lasts after period (menstrual flow) has ended. This should not occur.
4. Menstrual cramping at other times of the month. Many women feel slight discomfort during ovulation, mid-way through the monthly cycle when the egg is released from the ovary. Regular full strength menstrual cramps or other abdominal pain during ovulation or any time other than the days of your period is reason for concern.
5. Unexplained feeling of bloating or fullness in lower abdomen and or pelvic area. These feelings can sometimes be attributed to a urinary tract or vaginal infection. If these are ruled out and the sensations continue, it should be investigated.
6. Unusual pain or pressure during intercourse. Any unusual pain, feeling of pressure or odd unpleasant sensations during intercourse could be a sign something is wrong.
7. Gut Feeling. Trust your instinct. Women are uniquely in tune with their bodies. If you feel something just isn’t right there is a very good chance that you are correct.
My doctor explained that any of these symptoms could happen once and individually and be nothing serious but if recurrent and or grouped together, they could be indicators of serious conditions, including cancer. I wish I had know this sooner. I experienced and ignored each of the symptoms listed above, but since I had recently had a normal pap smear, I made excuses and assumed I was fine. I was not. When I finally saw my doctor after dealing with these symptoms for several months, I was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer. It was inoperable, having spread to one kidney, my bladder, colon, lymph node, and grown into the tissue of my pelvic wall. I had fantastic doctors who threw every known treatment at me. I am now just shy of three years cancer free, but my body is damaged in irreparable ways, and it was a battle I wish on no one.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, please do not wait for your next annual pap smear to discuss with your Gynecologist, schedule an appointment right away. The hour or two the appointment takes out of your schedule now will be well worth it to catch a serious and possibly life threatening condition in its earliest and most treatable stages, and could possibly save your life.