By Jehangir Hospital
Making the right choices
Research in Cancer has progressed by leaps and bounds in recent times. The use of vaccines for cancer prevention is by now well established. Experimental therapies using viruses are still in the pipeline. Diagnosing cancer early aids in achieving optimum treatment goals without resorting to late and aggressive therapies which may actually end up doing more harm than good.
Common Cancers exclusive to women include cervical, breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers. Let’s take a closer look at all of these.
1. Cervical Cancer
Cancer of the cervix can affect any woman who is or had been sexually active. Infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which can be sexually transmitted is thus a common cause. This cancer is also more likely in women who smoke, are concomitantly infected with HIV and are poorly nourished. Failure to get regularly screened with PAP smears has in studies been associated with a higher incidence of cervical cancer.
However, the good news is that by preventing HPV infection we can now prevent Cervical Cancer. This can be very easily achieved by administering HPV Vaccines
What you can do:
A simple out-patient PAP smear test can detect early changes in the cervix, which can be treated before it turns cancerous. It is recommended that women who are sexually active should undergo PAP smear test every 3 years. If combined with HPV testing, then this interval can be extended to 5 years.
Women who has been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for her age group.
This is one of the most common cancers in women at any given age. Early Detection of this cancer is the best defence. As a general principle in Oncology, any tumour that is small, in its early stages and has not spread to other organs in the body is easier and more successfully treated than an advanced cancer.
What you can do:
Women above 40 should undergo an annual breast scan and mammography for early detection of breast cancer
Women should also be familiar with Breast Self-Examination, a simple and effective tool for early detection. No one knows your body better than yourself. Any abnormal lump, puckering or discharge should warn you to seek medical advice at the earliest
Talk with your Doctor about your risk of Breast Cancer and the Best Screening Plan for you.
3. Ovarian Cancer.
Women who have never had children, have unexplained infertility, or have had their first child after the age of 30 may be at an increased risk of Ovarian Cancer. Women on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or those with a family history of Ovarian, Breast or Colon Cancer are also high risk.
At this time there are no good tests to predict Ovarian Cancer.
What you can therefore do:
See your Doctor if you have any of the following symptoms for more than a few weeks.
A. Menstrual irregularities
B. Unexplained digestive problems, loss of appetite, abdominal swelling or altered bowel habits
C. Recurrent or unexplained lower abdominal or pelvic pain
These may be masquerading signs and symptoms of Ovarian Cancer, and your physician will advise some simple tests to rule it out.
4. Endometrial Cancer.
This is a cancer seen more frequently in elderly women mostly 50 years or older, unlike cervical cancer. Women with heavy or irregular periods or unexplained bleeding after menopause should be aware that these may be initial symptoms of an underlying endometrial malignancy
High risk factors for endometrial cancer include
Obesity Diabetes and Hypertension
Early onset of first period in teens (menarche)
Late menopause after the age of 50
History of Infertility
Family history of Colon Cancer, PCOD
Use of Breast Cancer drugs like Tamoxifen
Use of HRT (Estrogen containing preparations, without Progesterone content)
What you can do:
If you do notice any change in your menstrual cycle or unusual spotting or bleeding after menopause, consult your Doctor immediately for an Endometrial sampling or a biopsy. Post-menopausal bleeding is never a normal phenomenon. It is always better to be over cautious than over confident
Doing what you can to help prevent Cancer is your best defence. Knowing about Cancer and how to reduce its risk can help save your precious life.
The next key is early detection. Finding and diagnosing Cancer early before it has spread gives you and your doctor the BEST chance to do something about it.
Take control of your health and reduce your Cancer Risk.
1. Stay away from tobacco.
2. Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
3. Get moving with regular physical activity.
4. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They provide you with excellent Anti-oxidants
5. Know yourself, be aware of your family history and your risks. Confide in your treating Doctor
6. Get regular check- ups and Cancer Screening tests.
Imagine a world free from Cancer.
Help us make it a reality.
Visit Jehangir Hospital today.
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