No one knows a woman’s body better than herself. As women, we all know that spotting, migraines, and discharge are all abnormal occurrences, and we always trust our instincts. So when experience any of these unpleasant symptoms, we know that our bodies are undergoing some level of change, whether minor or drastic. Also, we know that these signs can point to a plethora of possible conditions and diagnoses.
When trying to conceive, a hopeful woman is quick to embrace even the most unwelcome pregnancy symptoms, thinking that she may be experiencing the first signs of pregnancy. However, nothing can be more assuring than a visit to the gynecologist and having exams done that can verify the pregnancy for certainty. When you don’t know the causes for the symptoms you’re experiencing, it can be extremely unsettling. This is because many of the symptoms associated with pregnancy are also linked a wide range of other conditions, many of them not so pleasant. When describing their symptoms, a breast cancer or ovarian cancer patient can sound just like a pregnant woman because of their similarities in side effects and symptoms.
Especially when a pregnancy wasn’t planned or even possible, having the following fifteen pregnancy symptoms can be quite alarming. Knowing the signs of other conditions, including bladder and cervical cancers, can be beneficial for knowing when professional medical care should be sought. There is a wide range of diagnostic procedures that can be performed to rule out cancer or other diseases. When in doubt, figure it out!
15 Positive Pregnancy Test
There is probably nothing more perplexing than the dual meaning of a positive pregnancy test. Almost certainly, a positive pregnancy indicates the successful conception of a baby. On very rare occasions, however, a positive pregnancy test can also detect signs of cancer. The reason this happens is because pregnancy tests work to detect the presence of the hormone hCG in a positive pregnancy. In the same way, the hormone hCG is also present in a cancer patient whether male or female. That’s because the hormones within cancer cells and pregnancy are almost indistinguishable. But just like pregnancy tests don’t always bring their A game when it comes to detecting pregnancies, they’re also not fool-proof for detecting cancer. Just because you tested negative doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have cancer. A positive test, however, when a pregnancy is unlikely, might warrant a visit to the doctor’s office for exams to rule out the possibility of bad news.
14 Having To Go All.The.Time
There’s nothing more annoying than having to take a bathroom break every fifteen minutes while on a road trip or at work. This is the life of every pregnant woman. The frequent urination is caused by an increase in blood flow through the kidneys as well as an increase of pressure put on the abdomen from the growing uterus. This is one of the first signs of pregnancy that a woman experiences even before her missed period and it lasts throughout the duration of the pregnancy. In addition to frequent urination, a woman may experience a change in smell or speed of flow.
But a change in urination doesn’t always indicate a possible pregnancy. It is also a reported early symptom of bladder, ovarian, and cervical cancers. It can sometimes be presented with pain while urinating and other related symptoms. If cancer is suspected, your doctor may recommend a biopsy and other diagnostic procedures.
13 A Leaky Faucet
In case you didn’t already know that this was a symptom of pregnancy – yes, you can also get nipple discharge (called “colostrum”), usually some time in your third trimester and closer to your due date. Colostrum is the first form of breast milk that a mother produces until the breasts begin to produce milk within a few days after giving birth. It’s usually yellowish, thick, and sticky and provides a lot of good nutrients for the baby in his/her first days out of the womb.
But a ‘leaky nipple’ can also happen at other stages of hormonal changes within a woman, including puberty and menopause. Another instance in which a nipple might have some discharge is in breast cancer. Usually, discharge can be a matter of serious concern when it is bloody or clear in color, and when it only comes out of one consistent spot versus multiple ducts. In cases where doctors might be concerned, a ductogram, multiple x-rays, and mammograms may be ordered.
12 Swollen Feet
Not every woman is as ballsy as Kim Kardashian when it comes to showing off their sexy swollen pregnancy cankles in a pair of strappy heels. Most women experience swelling in their feet starting around the fifth month of their pregnancy. This happens as a result of the body producing 50% more blood and fluid to nourish the developing baby. This normal swelling is called edema and can happen in the face and hands as well, which is why many pregnant women also complain about their faces looking fuller. The swelling intensifies in the third trimester of the pregnancy and doesn’t resolve until after labor. Although there is little anyone can do to relieve the swelling, there should be some level of concern if the swelling comes on suddenly and is intense, as this can be a sign of preeclampsia. If preeclampsia is not properly treated, it can lead to a multitude of issues for the mother including renal or liver failure and cardiovascular issues. Studies show that women with preeclampsia are also 30% more likely to develop cancer.
11 Feeling Fatigued
Feeling lethargic or exhausted almost all day long regardless of how much rest you’re getting? Fatigue is a complaint that some pregnant women have throughout the duration of their pregnancy, mainly due to all of the hormonal changes taking place. As your body is producing more blood to sustain both you and baby, your blood sugar and blood pressure levels will decrease. As a trade-off, you get a boost in progesterone which makes you extra sleepy. This stage of heavy fatigue is usually stronger in the first trimester and then gets better for women after that. However, some women aren’t so lucky and just find themselves always super drained, even after labor.
The scary thing, however, is that fatigue is also a major symptom of cancer. As the body works harder to fight cancer cells, it experiences much more fatigue. Feeling weak and tired is symptomatic of a typical cancer patient and can continue until after treatment ends.
10 Throbbing Migraines
Another common complaint most pregnant women have is regarding excruciating migraines. You know, that intense feeling of throbbing in one particular area of your head. They are a result of shifting hormones and some women experience worse migraines than others. If you’ve experienced rough bouts of migraines during past menstrual cycles, then you’re more likely to get them even worse during pregnancy. And what’s worse is that you can’t do much about them when you’re pregnant. Doctors can only recommend taking acetaminophen, which isn’t very strong when standing up against a painful migraine that can last for several days.
Unfortunately, migraines can also be a major sign of a worse condition such as a brain tumor. The symptoms are so similar that most people with lasting migraines rush themselves to the ER fearing the worse. If this might be you, it would be important to get an accurate diagnosis by a neurologist who specializes in the area.
9 Backed Up
Half of all pregnant women experience constipation at some point in time throughout their pregnancy. As the hormone progesterone increases, muscles (including the digestive tract) relax, and work slower to get food through the intestines. Also, many prenatal vitamins contain large doses of iron which can also be the culprit. Most women can relieve the discomfort by eating high-fiber foods or getting prenatal vitamins without the added iron. However, for some women, constipation can be so bad that straining can lead to hemorrhoids. Laxatives should never be considered as they can cause harm to the baby.
Doctors advise that if constipation doesn’t resolve with natural methods, to seek medical attention as it is also possible for constipation to be a symptom of another co-occurring problem, such as a gastrointestinal issue. Those suffering from colon cancer also experience constipation and pain related to digesting food. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis by a gastroenterologist as 90% of colon cancer is treatable if addressed early enough.
Spotting can occur at any time during the pregnancy, most commonly at the time of conception and even possibly during the last trimester when the uterus is getting ready for labor. Although not all pregnant women will get this, many do experience light spotting that can be light pink in color or dark brown like dried blood. Vaginal spotting is usually the first indicator that a woman might want to take a pregnancy test, along with a missed period. On some rare occasions, vaginal spotting can also be a sign of pregnancy complications, particularly if it’s bright red in color and accompanied by painful cramping.
But spotting isn’t always related to pregnancy. Irregular vaginal bleeding is also known to be the most common sign of cervical cancer although it frequently gets dismissed as ‘normal’ spotting. Experts advise, however, that spotting is never normal and can be a sign of a more serious problem.
7 Abdominal Pain
Despite the fact that abdominal pain can also be pretty scary to experience while pregnant, almost half of all pregnant women do experience some degree of abdominal pain, which can happen at any point in their pregnancy. Most mild cases of abdominal pain are pretty normal and can mimic something similar to that of PMS cramps. With all of the obvious changes occurring in the abdominal area, some discomfort is expected. However, sharp and lasting pains can be a sign of a serious complication and shouldn’t be ignored.
Interestingly, abdominal pain can also be a cancer symptom that shouldn’t be ignored either. Abdominal pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen can be a sign of swelling or fluid build-up caused by stomach cancer. Abdominal pain can be difficult to pinpoint, which is why stomach cancer is usually diagnosed in its later stages. This is why it’s also important to get checked out as soon as the symptoms present themselves.
6 Feeling Bloated
Stomach cancer can also cause bloating, or a feeling of being overly full, even after eating an extremely small meal. In stomach and colon cancers, this happens with the digestive tract gets backed up and the stomach has trouble emptying itself. Think of it as a traffic jam in your digestive system. The bloating sensation typically worsens after a meal but can last until the next bowel movement or even longer. Bloating usually coincides with symptoms of abdominal pain and constipation, all due to the fact that the motility of the digestive tract is slowed down.
Bloating is also commonly experienced by pregnant women for the same reason that women experience constipation. What’s the culprit here? Progesterone. As previously mentioned, progesterone causes your muscles to relax, slowing down the stomach and digestive system as well. However, a normal case of bloating can be tolerated by eating high fiber foods and smaller, more frequent meals. Also, bloating usually resolves by the third trimester.
5 Morning Sickness
Another item on the long list of symptoms related to stomach and colon cancer is nausea. Who doesn’t love rolling out of bed with some good ole morning sickness? Up to three-fourths of all pregnant women experience this nasty side effect of carrying an unborn baby. If you’re lucky, all you’ll get is some slight nausea, and if you’re not-so-lucky, you’ll spend a couple of dreadful mornings hunched over a toilet bowl… vomiting. Nausea can occur so early on in the pregnancy that it can be one of the very first signs that a woman’s pregnant. It all makes sense too, considering that you now have a super spidey sense of smell and can no longer tolerate even smells you once loved. When Queen Bee (Beyonce) was pregnant with daughter Blue Ivy Carter, she stated while promoting her own fragrance that she could no longer stand the smell of her husband Jay-Z’s signature scent.
4 Putting On Pounds
A little bit of extra weight is always a good thing when it comes to pregnancy. You are eating for two after all, right? But gaining weight can also be a symptom of something not so pleasant. Apparently, women who have ovarian cancer are also likely to experience a bit of weight gain. This is due to the fact that an ovarian tumor sits deep within the abdomen and grow to be quite large in size. Another explanation for the weight gain is constipation which slows down digestion and causes food to sit longer. This probably comes as a bit of a surprise to you since you’re probably used to attributing cancer with weight loss. So you’ll probably be even more surprised to learn that weight gain can also occur in stomach and carcinoid cancers. In these cancers, patients usually experience unexplained weight gain, along with a laundry list of other unpleasant symptoms.
3 No Aunt Flow
When you’re TTC (trying to conceive), missing a period can be a glorious thing. Not having a visit from Aunt Flow for nine whole months (and most likely more) is probably the best symptom of pregnancy to look forward to, period. But missing a period doesn’t always mean that you’re pregnant. It’s the female body’s way of responding to hormonal changes and various stressors as well. Although a missed period is not typically a cause of major concern, it’s always healthy to keep a log of your menstrual cycles, tracking their start and end dates. Georgina Leadbeatter opened up about how her missed period was the first sign of ovarian cancer for her. Thinking that she may have been pregnant again, she went in for an ultrasound which instead revealed a cyst on her ovary. Georgina had developed a type of ovarian cancer called granulosa cell which triggers menstruation problems including missed periods.
2 Mood Swings
And if migraines, nausea, and constipation aren’t enough to keep any woman from wanting to ever get pregnant again, we’ll now also throw some mood swings into the mix. No one loves them more than your spouse or partner. One minute you’re feeling elated like you can clean the entire house, and the next minute you’re sobbing over the slightest things. Mood swings will kick in during the first weeks of pregnancy and will reappear in the last trimester as the body prepares for labor. What could be a more likely culprit than those lovely hormones? And besides the hormones, how else can a woman cope with carrying around excess weight and being constantly uncomfortable?
However, cancer patients can also experience intense fluctuations in their moods. Brain tumor patients in particular experience the first-hand effects of shifting chemicals that can also alter their personality completely. Some experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, irritability, and withdrawal.
1 ‘Baby Brain’
‘Baby Brain’ is the friendly term people allow you to associate with the memory loss issues you acquire once you fall pregnant. If you haven’t experienced it yet, wait until your third trimester, and you’ll certainly get ‘mommy brain’ once the baby is here. ‘Baby brain’ will literally make you feel like you’re going crazy because you can’t remember if you’ve locked your front door after having already checked it three times. Or even worse, it’ll make you lock your keys in your car or run to the store without your wallet. But it’s okay. You the world will give you a pass for wearing that beautiful baby bump. Although there’s no real scientific explanation to what some call a myth, it is absolutely certain that all expectant mothers experience it. However, it’s also another shared symptom of cancer. Brain cancer in particular effects brain chemical levels, which ultimately cause short-term memory loss similar to ‘baby brain.’