Are you aware of the different types of cancers that affect women? No?
Okay then, let’s talk about the most common cancers in women- their symptoms, treatment and most importantly their prevention.
Cancers that most often affect women are breast, colorectal, endometrial, lung, cervical, skin, and ovarian cancers. Knowing about these cancers and what you can do to prevent them or find them before it spreads may help save your life.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include:
- A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
- Change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
- Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
- A newly inverted nipple
- Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin
- Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange
See a doctor if you find a lump or other change in your breast — even if a recent mammogram was normal — make an appointment with your doctor for prompt evaluation.
The causes are indeterminate, However 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family. Either your family has a history of breast cancer or you have been exposed to radiation at a very young age. The best way to find out is to get a blood test and consult a genetic counselor.
A breast cancer risk factor is anything that makes it more likely you’ll get breast cancer. But having one or even several breast cancer risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop breast cancer.
Factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:
- Increasing age.
- A personal history of breast conditions. If you’ve had a breast biopsy that found lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast, you have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- A personal history of breast cancer. If you’ve had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
- A family history of breast cancer. If your mother, sister or daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly at a young age, your risk of breast cancer is increased. (Still, the majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.)
- Inherited genes that increase cancer risk. These genes can greatly increase your risk of breast cancer and other cancers, but they don’t make cancer inevitable.
- Radiation exposure at a young age.
- Beginning your period at a younger age. Beginning your period before age 12 increases your risk of breast cancer.
- Beginning menopause at an older age
- Having your first child at an older age. Women who give birth to their first child after age 30 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Having never been pregnant. Women who have never been pregnant have a greater risk of breast cancer than do women who have had one or more pregnancies.
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy. Women who take hormone therapy medications that combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer decreases when women stop taking these medications.
- Drinking alcohol.
Through right preventive measures it’s easy to decrease the risk of breast cancer.
- Start by asking your doctor about breast cancer screening. Discuss about things such as clinical breast exams and mammograms and find a strategy that fits you.
- Know your breasts, perform self breast inspections regularly and note any unusual changes. If there is a new change, lumps or other unusual signs in your breasts, talk to your doctor promptly. It won’t help you prevent breast cancer but definitely help you catch it early and nip it in the bud.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Don’t drink alcohol, maintain a healthy diet, exercise- things you should anyway do to lead a healthy life. For example- a Mediterranean diet with a supplement of nuts is proven to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
- Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy, if you are doing it to control post menopausal symptoms, combination hormone therapy may increase the risk of breast cancer.
- If your doctor has assessed your family history and determined that you have other factors, such as a precancerous breast condition, that increase your risk of breast cancer, you may discuss options to reduce the risk, such as:
Preventive medications (chemoprevention). Estrogen-blocking medications, such as selective estrogen receptor modulators and aromatase inhibitors, reduce the risk of breast cancer in women with a high risk of cancer
Preventive surgery. Women with a very high risk of breast cancer may choose to have their healthy breasts surgically removed (prophylactic mastectomy). They may also choose to have their healthy ovaries removed (prophylactic oophorectomy) to reduce the risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.
Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include:
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor
- Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse
Causes of cervical cancer
It isn’t clear what causes cervical cancer, but it’s certain that HPV plays a role. HPV is very common, and most people with the virus never develop cancer. This means other factors — such as your environment or your lifestyle choices — also determine whether you’ll develop cervical cancer
These factors increase risk of cervical cancer
- Many sexual partners. The greater your number of sexual partners — and the greater your partner’s number of sexual partners — the greater your chance of acquiring HPV.
- Early sexual activity. Having sex at an early age increases your risk of HPV.
- Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Having other STIs — such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS — increases your risk of HPV.
- A weakened immune system. You may be more likely to develop cervical cancer if your immune system is weakened by another health condition and you have HPV.
- Smoking. Smoking is associated with squamous cell cervical cancer.
- Exposure to miscarriage prevention drug. If your mother took a drug called diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant in the 1950s, you may have an increased risk of a certain type of cervical cancer called clear cell adenocarcinoma.
Prevention of cervical cancer
- Receiving a vaccination to prevent HPV infection may reduce your risk of cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers.
- Have routine Pap tests. Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions of the cervix, so they can be monitored or treated in order to prevent cervical cancer. Most medical organizations suggest beginning routine Pap tests at age 21 and repeating them every few years.
- Practice safe sex. Not just to reduce your risk of cervical cancer but also to prevent other sexually transmitted infections.
- Don’t smoke. Cannot stress this enough. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, talk to your doctor about strategies to help you quit.
Become aware about your oncological health. Perform self examinations, talk to your doctors about regular tests and most importantly show support to women who have suffered through these types of cancers. It can be anything from joining support groups to putting up a story.
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