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Johns Hopkins Health - 4 Cancer Signs to Know

Winter 2016
Issue No. 31

4 Cancer Signs to Know

Date: February 2, 2016


Many people think of ovarian and uterine cancers as “silent killers” because they often have no discernible symptoms. But they do sometimes make themselves known early on, says gynecologic oncologist Rebecca Stone, M.D. She wants women to be on the lookout for these four signs—and to take steps to minimize the risks.

1. Postmenopausal bleeding

“Bleeding after menopause is never normal,” she says. “It’s the number-one danger sign of uterine cancer.”

2. Urinary and/or bowel changes

Symptoms of ovarian cancer may include frequent urination, change in bowel movements and bloating. “If you’re having symptoms every day or are medicating yourself regularly for symptoms,” says Stone, “you need to see a doctor.”

3. Being overweight

For every five-unit increase in your BMI—or body mass index, a ratio of weight to height—your risk for hormone-related uterine cancer rises 50 percent to 60 percent. (Some uterine cancers are fueled by gene mutations, not hormones.) “Any weight loss you can achieve is good,” she says, adding that the best way to minimize your risk via weight is getting your BMI below 25. (Find a BMI calculator at

4. Family history

If close family members have had breast, ovarian and/or uterine cancers, you should talk to your doctor about genetic testing and counseling. “Upwards of 20 percent of ovarian cancers are due to gene mutations,” she says. Prophylactic removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes lowers the risk of ovarian/tubal cancer by over 90 percent in patients with a BRCA gene mutation.


Watch “Advances in Gynecologic Cancer Care and Genetic Testing”: hopkinsmedicine .org/health/healthseminars/health_education_on_demand

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