Conversation Starters for Your Next Trip to the Gynecologist

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By Laura Nathan-Garner, MD Anderson Staff Writer

woman talking to doctor.jpgYour pap test isn't the only reason to see your gynecologist.

Your doctor also can address unusual symptoms that could be cancer. And, he or she can help you decide what do about body changes that may affect your cancer risk at different stages of life.

Here are some topics you may need to discuss with your gynecologist at your next appointment.

1. Gynecologic Cancer: Symptoms Besides Pelvic Pain

Unfortunately, gynecologic cancers -- including cervical, ovarian and endometrial cancers -- have vague symptoms. And, many women often overlook or mistake them for less serious conditions.

Talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks:

  • Constant fatigue that's interfering with your work or leisure activities
  • Loss of appetite or constantly feeling full 
  • Feeling bloated for more than two weeks or after your period ends
Also talk to your doctor about these other cancer symptoms women shouldn't ignore.

2. How the Pill Affects Your Cancer Risks

Trying to decide if the pill is the best birth control for you? Discuss these points with your doctor:

  • Using the pill for several years may slightly raise your breast and cervical cancer risks. But this slight increase is only temporary.
  • Taking the pill may help cut your risk of ovarian and endometrial (uterine) cancer.
  • In your teens, 20s, 30s or early 40s, your cancer risk is usually low. So, any potential increased risk from taking the pill is probably still small.
Learn what else you should know about the pill and cancer.

3. How Menopause Can Affect Your Cancer Risk

Wondering how menopause affects your cancer risks and what you can do to prevent cancer? Use these points to start an informed conversation with your doctor:

  • Using hormone therapy after menopause can raise breast cancer risk.
  • Safer options for managing menopause symptoms include: exercise, increased calcium and vitamin D intake, and avoiding hot flash triggers like coffee, tea and alcohol.
  • Your cancer risk increases as you age. To reduce your risks during and after menopause, exercise, stick with a healthy diet, don't smoke, avoid secondhand smoke and maintain a healthy body weight.
Get more facts on menopause and cancer risk.

These are just a few topics you'll find in the latest issue of Focused on Health, MD Anderson's healthy living newsletter. You'll also learn why New Year's resolutions are usually doomed, how to build a cancer-fighting salad and how drinking red wine affects your cancer risk.

For more women's health tips, follow us on Twitter and join our conversations on Facebook.

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