Understanding your body is often a difficult task. There are so many unknown internal facets and changes that the average woman can barely keep track of what was normal yesterday, let alone what will be normal tomorrow. She is faced with the daunting task of maintaining the health of an ever-altering body. As such, many women are unaware when symptoms of an infection or disease appear, and very few actually know what those signs are.
In a survey of 1,190 women, the participants were asked what the symptoms of breast cancer were and which ones they checked for. The results were less than encouraging. While the majority knew that breast lumps were a danger and checked for them regularly, most were confused about the other signs. Eighty-one percent believed that a mole on the breast indicated cancer, and a good portion thought that a persistent cough or an extra nipple did as well. None of them do, which means the women were watching for the wrong things. They were ignoring signs such as an inverted nipple, nipple discharge, armpit lumps and changes in the breasts’ skin, size or shape. They were missing indicators of cancer, a disease that affects thousands of women each year. They were putting their lives at risk by not properly understanding what their bodies were telling them. But it’s not just missing diagnoses that can hurt health; it’s also misdiagnosing.
Sometimes, women are too quick to judge an alteration in their body. They make assumptions about a symptom based on what the symptom is generally associated with rather than truth. For example, when most women experience vaginal itching, they immediately diagnose a yeast infection. They go to the drug store, buy an over-the-counter medication and treat the infection. If it actually is a yeast infection, the itching goes away. But if it’s something else, like a sexually transmitted infection, inflammation or dry skin, the treatment is ineffective. This leads to more self-diagnoses, more over-the-counter medications and irritation of the actual problem. They get worse and put their health at risk.
Fully comprehending the ins and outs of your body is a monumental endeavor, but it’s one worth tackling. Catching a symptom in time can be the difference between six months and six years. Properly diagnosing, rather than making assumptions, can mean quicker relief and fewer complications. You have a responsibility to take care of yourself, so do it. Talk to your doctor; research. Know yourself; stay healthy.
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