Many of us are stoical about our health, and adopt the 'let's wait and see' mentality. But this can lead to conditions getting worse, or at best you spend more and more time quietly fretting alone. It’s better to let a doctor decide whether it’s a medical problem that needs attention or not.
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s time to get them checked out. It will put your mind at rest, and if you do need help, you can get the right treatment straightaway.
1. Going to the loo more often
Could be a sign of: Ovarian cancer
Frequently needing to go to the loo to pee can be a sign of ovarian cancer, as can feeling full quickly when you eat, having a swollen tummy, constantly bloating, and discomfort in your stomach or pelvis. Don't ignore it. Get it checked by an expert gynaecologist.
Of course, having a weak bladder can be caused by a number of less serious conditions, like lax pelvic muscles, which can benefit from simple laser treatments like the MonaLisa Touch, or an infection, which may need medication. Because ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose it’s vital to get symptoms checked out.
The ‘the silent killer’ can be mistaken for other common conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or menstrual problems.
The day clinic Twenty-five Harley Street offers a blood screening test for ovarian cancer. If you have relatives who’ve had breast or ovarian cancer, this will also tell you whether you carry a gene that increases your risk.
2. Inability to concentrate…
Could be a sign of: depression
If you have difficulty focusing on a task, and feel like you’ve lost interest in things you used to enjoy, like hobbies, sex, and seeing friends, and you are struggling to cope with feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem, and often insomnia too, it could be it’s more than stress.
Anyone can become depressed, and while it will affect one in four of us in our lifetime, left unchecked it can spiral into clinical depression or drug or alcohol addiction as a relief valve.
While men tend to display signs of depression by blaming the people around them, picking fights and turning to destructive habits like drinking, a woman is more likely to show signs of sadness, blame herself, or adopt unhealthy eating habits like skipping meals or emotional eating that leads to weight gain.
Often a holistic approach is needed to get you back on track. Talking further with a caring GP will help you get a better understanding of what is the root of the problem. It could be that you see a doctor for counselling or perhaps you require nutritional advice or hormone therapy to help balance mood.
3. Lumps and bumps
Could be a sign of: cancer
Finding a lump doesn’t always mean that you have a benign tumour or cancer, as this could be a cyst or swollen gland. But we are always being told to check ourselves in the shower for a reason. If you do find a lump or bump, keep a close eye on it.
You should visit your doctor if you become concerned about it. This is especially important if the lump is getting bigger quite quickly, is red, hot or appears to have pus inside, doesn’t go down in a couple of days, is getting slowly bigger over weeks, is painful or bleeding.
Checking your breasts regularly will ensure you spot any changes early and therefore can get it assess by a doctor. Chances are it's nothing, but if the skin texture on all or part of your breasts change (i.e. dimples or puckers), you notice a lump, you get a rash around the nipple, or you experience pain in your breast or armpit it's best to get your breasts checked by a specialist
4. A Persistent Cough
Could be a sign of: lung cancer
Most coughs will clear up on their own, and GPs say you don’t need to seek help unless you’ve been dogged with a cough for more than two weeks. It could be you need medication for a chronic infection such as bronchitis, or it could be a sign of something more serious, like lung cancer, or a blood clot on the lung or heart disease.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is another common condition, mainly suffered by smokers, although people who have never smoked can develop it, where the lungs become inflamed, and you may suffer a chesty cough, breathlessness and chest infections. This includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
A doctor will be able to rule out other common causes of a persistent cough, including asthma to acid reflux and sinusitis.
5. Joint pain and fractures
Could be a sign of: Osteoporosis
A lot of people don’t realise they’ve got weak or brittle bones until they end up in a clinic having an X-ray for a fracture. But the reality is that once you get into your thirties you start to lose more bone mass than you gain, so you need to take measures to build up bone density and strength.
The quickest way to find out if you’re prone to osteoporosis is by asking your doctor for a DEXA scan for your bones. This screening can alert you to the risk of thinning bones that could become osteoporosis later in life.
Lead DEXA expert, Professor David Reid at 25 Harley Street says: “After the first vertebral fracture women (and probably men too), have a one in five chance of a second fracture within a year. Identifying people with, and at risk of, vertebral fractures is extremely important and it is now possible with the DEXA scanner
6. Irregular bleeding
Could be a sign of: Endometrial (womb) cancer
Periods can become erratic, especially during times of stress or in perimenopause. But bleeding can be a sign of womb cancer. One in 10 women who experience postmenopausal bleeding will have womb cancer, so it’s something you should get checked out straight away.
Irregular or heavy bleeding can also be caused by certain conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid imbalances and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). As well as benign growths such as fibroids and polyps, which can be removed easily with day surgery.
Endometrial hyperplasia is the thickening of the lining of the womb and is sometimes a side effect of high levels of oestrogen, or from being overweight. This can sometimes go on to become endometrial cancer, so regardless of the potential cause, it's always worth seeing a doctor who specialises in gynaecological cancer treatment.
7. Flu-like symptoms
Could be a sign of: Heart attack
It’s important to remember that sigs of a heart-attack don’t necessarily include severe chest pains, especially in women. While you may have flu or a virus, symptoms such as unusual fatigue, upper back discomfort, breathlessness, nausea and dizziness may be early signs of heart problems. Get an emergency appointment, with your GP, or if you can't get a same day appointment and you have serious concerns that you may be having a heart attack, go straight to your local hospital's A & E.
8. Blood in your poo
Could be a sign of: Bowel cancer
There are a number of reasons why you might have blood in your stool. When it's bright red, the most common cause is from haemorrhoids, but very dark blood is much more concerning.
Bowel cancer (also known as rectal or colon cancer) is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, and blood in your stool is one of the most noticeable symptoms. If you're concerned, speak to your GP about a referral to a consultant gastroenterologist. Experts in this field are developing new and more comfortable ways to check for bowel conditions.
Book an appointment with a GP or one of the consultants at Twenty-five Harley Street Day Clinic, 25 Harley Street, Marylebone London W1G 9QW. Telephone 020 3883 9525, or email [email protected]. Visit 25harleystreet.co.uk