7 symptoms women over 45 should never ignore

As we get older, our bodies do change and it's tempting to keep quiet or assume 'it's just an age thing'. However, just because ageing is a fact of life, it is always important to get symptoms checked out when they arise.

They may be a sign of something serious. Of course, it’s important to emphasise that the likelihood is, there are other explanations. However, you do still need to get these symptoms checked out to put your mind at rest and in certain cases, get treatment fast.

#1. Postmenopausal bleeding

Why you need to get it checked: Endometrial (womb) cancer

During the menopause, it's common for periods to become irregular before stopping altogether. After 12 months of no periods, you are considered to be in the 'postmenopausal' category. If vaginal bleeding occurs after this, it could be a cause for concern.

One in 10 women who experience postmenopausal bleeding will have womb cancer, so if it's not something to have a 'wait and see' approach to. There are of course other things that can cause this kind of bleeding, including inflammation and thinning of the lining of the womb, non-cancerous cervical polyps, and endometrial hyperplasia. 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.

#2. Breast pain or dimpling

Why you need to get it checked: Breast cancer

The rates of breast cancer in the UK have risen almost 20% since the 1990s, and almost half of all cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 65. The three most important factors that can determine a person's individual risk of developing breast cancer are family history, gender and age, with 81% of breast cancer cases occur in women over the age of 50.

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. For more information about the signs of breast cancer click here.

Women aged between 50 and 70 years old are invited for a mammogram every three years in the UK, or from a younger age if you have a higher than average risk of developing the condition. Attending these appointments, as well as regular breast checks, is the best way to keep on top of any potential changes that might occur.

#3. Pain and swelling in your legs

Why you need to get it checked: Blood clot/DVT

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that usually develops in a deep vein in the leg. Being over the age of 60 can dramatically increase your risk of developing DVT, as does some medications for menopausal symptoms like HRT. Women who have a history of blood clots or venous thrombosis should discuss the effect hormone therapy could have on their risk.

If you experience pain, swelling, tenderness or redness at the back of the leg, especially if you have taken a long journey in the past few days, visit a doctor as soon as possible. While DVT can be treated, the longer it is left, the higher the chance of the clot travelling up to your lungs and causing a pulmonary embolism.

You're at the greatest risk of DVT when travelling or staying sedentary for long periods of time. Your GP will be able to discuss what you can do to reduce your risk of developing a clot, including simple exercises and compression stockings.

#4. Flu-like symptoms

Why you need to get it checked: Heart attack

While you may just have the flu or a virus, it's important to remember that women don't always experience the same symptoms as men when having a heart attack. The most commonly associated symptom, chest pain, may be present but not severe.

Symptoms that should raise red flags include upper back discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness and unusual fatigue. Sadly, without the presence of extreme chest pains, many people might not realise that their symptoms could be fatal and even A&E doctors have been criticised recently for missing the early warning signs of heart problems, so do make it clear to your doctor if you have concerns.

#5. Joint pain and fractures

Why you need to get it checked: Osteoporosis

Unless you play a lot of contact sports or are particularly clumsy, osteoporosis is something that all women should be aware of, especially if they're going through the menopause. Oestrogen plays an important role in the maintenance of healthy bones, so menopause can cause a significant drop in bone density. Almost half of all women in the UK over the age of 50 are likely to experience fractures due to osteoporosis.

If you're concerned about your risk of osteoporosis, you can have a test called a DEXA scan which measures your bone density levels. Look for a scanner with the latest DEXA technology and expert analysis from an expert to decode your risk factors.

#6. Blood in your poo

Why you need to get it checked: Bowel cancer

There are a number of reasons why you might have blood in your poo (stool), ranging from completely harmless to potentially life threatening. There are generally two types of bloody stool; black, tarry stool where blood is coming from the upper digestive tract, and red stool where the blood is coming from closer to the anus. 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. It's commonly referred to as a 'Western disease' because it's heavily influenced by lifestyle factors including diet and weight. However, 90% of bowel cancer cases occur in people over the age of 60. Although bowel cancer is more common in men, women shouldn't assume it can't happen to them.

It's also worth noting that women who have had a hysterectomy are at a greater risk of developing colon cancer (19% higher) and rectal cancer (28% higher). If you're concerned, speak to your GP about a referral.

#7. Pelvic pain

Why you need to get it checked: Ovarian cancer

Pelvic pain is never something that should be ignored. Regardless of the cause, it's something that should be addressed to rule out possible health concerns, as well as improve your quality of life. One possible cause could be the early symptoms of ovarian cancer. Although you might assume that ovarian cancer is more common among women of reproductive age, 53% of cases are diagnosed in women aged 65 and over. Other sources have suggested that up to two-thirds of cases occur in with aged 55 or older.

Other symptoms include a change in your bowel habits, indigestion and nausea, fatigue, and like womb cancer, vaginal bleeding after menopause.  Talk to a doctor who is expert in managing pelvic pain.


The external opening of the back passage, the rectum. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
A common name for the large and/or small intestines. Full medical glossary
Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
Malignant, a tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
Relating either to the cervix (the neck of the womb) or to the cervical vertebrae in the neck (cervical spine). Full medical glossary
Blood that has coagulated, that is, has moved from a liquid to a solid state. Full medical glossary
The large intestine. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for deep vein thrombosis: the obstruction of one of the deep veins, often in the calf, by a blood clot. Full medical glossary
Obstruction of blood flow by an embolus, a clot (or other material, for example, fat or air) that has become dislodged from elsewhere in the blood system. Full medical glossary
Relating to the endometrium. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
Swollen blood vessel in the lining of the anus, also known as piles. Full medical glossary
Swollen blood vessels around the anus, also known as piles. Full medical glossary
The death of a section of heart muscle caused by an interruption in its blood supply. Also called a myocardial infarction. Full medical glossary
A substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. Full medical glossary
Abbreviation for hormone replacement therapy, the administration of female hormones in cases where they are not sufficiently produced by the body. Full medical glossary
The surgical removal of the uterus (womb). Full medical glossary
Discomfort after eating. Full medical glossary
The body’s response to injury. Full medical glossary
An imaging study of the breasts, for example, by X-ray. Full medical glossary
Relating to the menopause, the time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle. Full medical glossary

The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods cease

Full medical glossary
A hormone involved in female sexual development, produced by the ovaries. Full medical glossary
A condition resulting in brittle bones due to loss of bony tissue. Full medical glossary
relating to the ovaries Full medical glossary
Relating to the pelvis. Full medical glossary
A growth on the surface of a mucous membrane (a surface that secretes mucus, lining any body cavity that opens to the outside of the body). Full medical glossary
Growths on the surface of a mucous membrane (a surface that secretes mucous), lining any body cavity that opens to the outside of the body. Full medical glossary
Relating to the rectum, the lowest part of the bowel leading to the anus. Full medical glossary
The formation of a blood clot. Full medical glossary
The muscula passage, forming part of the femal reproductive system, between the cervix and the external genitalia. Full medical glossary
A blood vessel that carries blood towards the heart. Full medical glossary
Relating to the veins. Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary
ventricular tachycardia Full medical glossary
The uterus. Full medical glossary