Know Your Body: Recognizing Symptoms Could Save Your Life

How well do you think you know your body? Pretty well? Let us ask it this way: how quickly would you notice a new symptom, such as a breast lump or a change in the length of your menstrual cycle?

A critical component of managing your health is knowing what’s normal for your body. If you give your body the attention it deserves, it’s easier to identify new symptoms that may otherwise go unnoticed.

When it comes to breast and cervical health, recognizing and addressing symptoms early could potentially save your life.


Let’s talk about breast health. 

You need to have a baseline of what’s normal for you so you’ll more easily be able to notice new breast symptoms.

Establish a baseline by making it a habit to examine your breasts on a regular basis.

You’ll want to be on the lookout for:

  • Lump or firm feeling in your breast or under your arm.
  • Nipple changes or discharge.
  • Skin that is itchy, red, scaled, dimpled or puckered.

The other way to establish a baseline of your breast health is to get a mammogram. Don’t wait until your 40s to ask your provider about scheduling one. Start the conversation early. They can help you determine if you’re at high risk for breast cancer, and together, you can decide when to begin your annual mammograms.


Now, let’s talk about cervical health.

Cervical cancer doesn’t get nearly as much attention as breast cancer, but it’s equally as important! Especially since, many times, there are no signs or symptoms of cervical cancer. That’s why it’s so important for you to follow the recommended schedule for your Pap and HPV tests. If you skip these screenings and wait to see your provider until you have abnormal symptoms, it could be too late.

Even if you follow the recommended screening schedule, it’s still important to monitor your body and watch for new symptoms such as:

  • Irregular bleeding between periods or periods that are longer or heavier than usual.
  • Pain during intercourse or bleeding after.
  • Sudden increased vaginal discharge.
  • Unexplained, persistent pelvic and/or low back pain.

If scheduling a mammogram or Pap test seems out of reach, Women’s Way can help.

For many women, barriers such as lack of transportation, health insurance or childcare can make scheduling an appointment seem too far out of reach. Thankfully, help is available through Women’s Way.

One in 22 North Dakota women may be eligible for free breast and cervical cancer screenings through Women’s Way. If you’re a North Dakota woman between the ages of 21 and 64, you could be one of them! Find out if you qualify by calling Women’s Way at 800-280-5512 or drop them an email at womensway@nd.gov to learn more.

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