All over the world, February 4th is recognized as World Cancer Day. Cancer is a disease/ tumour caused by uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in some parts of the body. There are so many types of cancers that affect women; we have compiled the top 5.
Understanding the risk factors associated with these five cancers is the first step to take in minimizing your personal risk.
A cancer diagnosis can often be directly linked to your family medical history, your lifestyle choices, and your environment. You can’t control your family medical history, and only some aspects of your environment are up to you. But lifestyle choices like diet, weight, activity level, and smoking are yours to manage. –Everything in moderation really works.
- Breast cancer: Breast cancer develops from breast cells. Signs of breast cancer may include:
- A lump in a breast
- A pain in the armpits (or breast) that does not seem to be related to the woman’s menstrual period.
- Pitting or redness of the skin of the breast; like the skin of an orange
- A rash around (or on) one of the nipples
- A swelling (lump) in one of the armpits
- An area of thickened tissue in a breast
- One of the nipples has a discharge; sometimes it may contain blood
- The nipple changes in appearance; it may become deep or inverted
- The size or the shape of the breast changes
- The nipple-skin or breast-skin may have started to peel, or scale.
2. Lung cancer: Lung cancer in women differs from lung caner in men in many ways. Yet, despite obvious differences in our appearance, we tend to group men and women together when talking about lung cancer. The causes, response to treatments, survival rate, and even symptoms are different.
Even though smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer in women, a higher percentage of women who develop lung cancer are non-smokers.
Some of the causes may include:
- Exposure to radon in our homes. Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is released from the normal decay of uranium in the soil. Radon can enter homes through cracks in the foundation, floors, and walls, etc. Radon may also be present in the water supply in homes that have well water.
- Secondhand smoke: Exposure to smoke from cigarettes another person is smoking.
- Occupational smoke: Chemicals you may be exposed to at the workplace.
- Cough and coughing blood
- Tumours develops in the outer regions of the lungs. These tumors can grow quite large or spread before they cause any symptoms.
- Symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, or chest and back pain from the spread of lung cancer to bone, may be the first sign that something is wrong.
3. Colon Cancer: It’s best to be tested for colon cancer before having any symptoms. Symptoms often appear only after the cancer has grown or spread. Colon cancer that’s found through screening – testing that’s done on people with no symptoms – is usually easier to treat. Screening can even prevent some colon cancers by finding and removing pre-cancerous growths called polyps.
However, if colon cancers symptoms do occur, they can let you know you have a problem and should go to the doctor. Most of the time, these same symptoms are caused by something that isn’t cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease. Still, if you have any of these problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
- Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Screening could save your life
Because colon cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms until it is advanced, it is advised to start screening. People with a family history of the disease should talk with their doctor about beginning screening at a younger age. Talk with your doctor to find out which tests might be right for you.
When colon cancer is found early, before it has spread, the survival rate is high. But if the cancer has had a chance to spread outside the colon, survival rates are lower.
4. Uterine Cancer: The uterus is a hollow organ in females located in the pelvis, commonly called the womb. The uterus functions to support fetal development until birth. Uterine cancer is the abnormal growth around the uterus. The exact causes of uterine cancer are not known.
- Common signs and symptoms of uterine cancer are abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, pain with urination and sex, and pelvic pains.
Uterine cancer is diagnosed usually with a pelvic exam, ultrasound, and biopsy (a sample of tissue taken from the body in order to examine it more closely).
5. Ovarian Cancer: It begins in the ovary. Just like uterine cancer, signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are frequently absent in early stages; even when they do exist, they may be subtle. In most cases, symptoms exist for several months before being recognized and diagnosed.
Ovarian cancer warning signs include ongoing pain or cramps in the belly or back, abnormal vaginal bleeding, nausea, and bloating. Depending on the cancer stage, ovarian cancer treatment includes surgery and chemotherapy (using anti-cancer drugs).
Remember that our bodies are different- we all react to things differently. If you feel anything strange in your body (no matter how small/insignificant you think it is), please do not hesitate to visit your doctor. Like they say, “prevention is better than care.”