7 critical health signals women should not ignore
Early detection and treatment in women's health can save lives. However, symptoms of severe diseases that become increasingly difficult to treat when delayed are often overlooked by women, typically dismissed as 'stress' or 'not a significant problem.' Symptoms such as irregular menstruation, spotting, and frequent urination, if ignored, can be indicators of serious health issues.
Gynecology and Obstetrics Specialist Dr. Çağrı Arıoğlu Aydın outlines seven critical signals that necessitate a doctor's consultation, offering essential warnings.
Irregular Menstruation and Spotting
Irregular menstruation is a symptom that should never be overlooked. It most commonly arises from excessive stress or exercise, rapid weight gain or loss, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and thyroid or prolactin hormone issues. Dr. Aydın emphasizes, "Excessive and prolonged menstrual bleeding requires a gynecological evaluation. It can be a significant symptom of conditions like endometrial polyps, myomas, thickening of the uterine wall, and cervical and endometrial cancers."
Pelvic Pain, Abdominal Swelling
Pelvic pain can indicate infections, myomas, ovarian cysts, and endometriosis. Accompanying vaginal discharge warrants an evaluation for pelvic infection. Persistent fever, and severe abdominal, and back pain, even after antibiotic treatment, necessitate further tests for potential infections and abscesses of the reproductive organs. Dr. Aydın also points out that endometriosis can cause pelvic pain, explaining, "Endometriosis involves the growth of uterine lining tissue outside the uterus, while an endometrioma, or 'chocolate cyst,' is endometriosis in the ovaries." She highlights that delayed periods accompanying pelvic pain could suggest an ectopic pregnancy. "If abdominal pain and swelling, along with weight loss, occur, ovarian cancer should be considered. Annual gynecological exams are crucial for early detection and treatment, as ovarian cancer often presents symptoms in advanced stages."
Raised, generally skin-colored lesions in the genital area can indicate genital warts, most commonly caused by the Human papillomavirus (HPV). Dr. Aydın notes that warts, often symptomless and occasionally causing itching, are primarily due to HPV types 6 and 11, which are in the low-risk group for cervical cancer. "However, other subtypes may also be present, making cervical cancer screening tests essential," she advises.
Bleeding After Sexual Intercourse
Vaginal bleeding after intercourse can result from vaginal infections, cervical polyps, and more importantly, cervical cancer lesions. Dr. Aydın warns that Human papillomavirus (HPV), typically transmitted sexually, is often the cause of cervical cancer. "This virus can manifest as post-coital bleeding. However, the disease may not cause symptoms in its early stages. Therefore, Pap smear and HPV tests conducted during gynecological exams are crucial. Screening tests can detect precancerous lesions, and early diagnosis and correct treatment can prevent the development of cervical cancer."
Physiological vaginal discharge is odorless, clear, and colorless. The vaginal flora predominantly consists of beneficial microorganisms. Flora imbalances can lead to changes in discharge. If the discharge is yellow or green, foul-smelling, and accompanied by pelvic or back pain and itching, it may indicate an infection. Treatments for sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, ureaplasma, or mycoplasma typically involve antibiotics for both partners.
Bleeding During Menopause
Any vaginal bleeding observed a year after the last menstrual period warrants a doctor's visit. This bleeding can indicate vaginal dryness-related atrophy, endometrial hyperplasia (thickening of the uterus lining), cervical or endometrial polyps, myomas, and even cervical and endometrial cancers. Dr. Aydın insists that bleeding during menopause should always be taken seriously, suggesting, "A gynecological exam, cervical cancer screening tests, and ultrasonography are necessary. If the endometrial lining is thick, endometrial biopsy options should be considered, followed by a pathology examination."
Frequent urination in women can stem from various health conditions, including urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and certain chronic conditions. Urinary tract infections are characterized by bacteria entering the urinary system, causing symptoms like frequent urination, burning sensation, and pain during urination. Urinary incontinence involves partial or complete loss of bladder control and manifests as frequent urination, urinary leakage, and sudden urges to urinate.