By Laura Nathan-Garner, MD Anderson Staff Writer
Your 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
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.
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.
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.