7 Signs You Should Not Ignore

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Passing chest pain

Periodically, you get what feels like a bad case of heartburn, or a tight squeezing sensation, as if you're being laced into a corset.

The culprit

You probably just peppered your pizza with too many chilis. But if you know you're at risk for heart problems, don't blow it off--it could be a heart attack. Every year, about 10,000 women under 45 have one. Symptoms tend to be less severe in women than in men, so "you may just feel pressure, along with fatigue, throat pain, or shortness of breath," Giardina says.

The fix

Feel the burn after feasting on chalupas? Normal. Feel as if you're being squeezed to death by a boa constrictor after a hard workout? Not normal. In younger women, a heart attack usually happens when you're working up a sweat. If that's the case, dial 911. Your doc will do an EKG to determine whether your heart has been damaged, then decide on the best treatment, whether it's clot-attacking drugs or surgery to clear your arteries.

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Abdominal discomfort with gas or bloating

For the past month, you've felt gassy and bloated more days than not, and it takes fewer slices of pizza to fill you up than it used to.

The culprit

Who hasn't sometimes felt like an overinflated balloon--especially right before your period? But if it happens often and the problem is new, the worst-case scenario is ovarian cancer. In 2007 the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation released the first national consensus on early symptoms: They include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, and difficulty eating. If you start experiencing them almost daily for more than two or three weeks, raise a red flag.

Ovarian cancer isn't as common as breast or lung cancer (about 1 in 70 women will get it during their lives), but your risk is higher if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or if you've never been pregnant.

The fix

Book an appointment with your ob-gyn to talk about your symptoms. If she suspects cancer, she'll send you to a gynecologic oncologist for an ultrasound or a CT scan to check for a tumor. The good news: Five-year survival rates for ovarian cancer are 90 percent in women who are diagnosed early.

Back pain with tingling toes

No amount of Advil or heating pads can ease this backache. Your feet may also feel numb.

The culprit

If you've just helped your cousin move into her new fourth-floor apartment, anti-inflammatories should banish the pain. But if they don't work, hobble to an orthopedist. "You could have a disc (one of the spongy rings that cushions the bones in your spine) pressing on the spinal nerve," says Letha Griffin, M.D., an orthopedist and sports-medicine specialist in Atlanta. Without proper attention, you risk permanent nerve damage. And it's hard to do the mambo if you can't feel your feet.

The fix

An X-ray or MRI can show whether a disc in your back has slipped or ruptured. As long as the numbness isn't getting worse, your doctor will probably prescribe physical therapy along with oral steroids or NSAIDs to reduce nerve inflammation. But if you're still laid up after a few months, you may need surgery to remove the disc.

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More from Women's Health:

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