The month of September is observed as the month of awareness for Gynecologic Cancer. Cancer is a terminal disease. However, certain cancers, if detected at the initial stage and treated well, have a good survival rate.
Gynecologic cancers are cancers that originate in a woman’s reproductive organs or within the pelvis area below the stomach and in between the hip bones. These are Cervical cancer, Ovarian cancer, Uterine cancer, Vaginal cancer, and Vulvar cancer.
This article will discuss common cancer types in women and how they can be prevented. Each cancer is different, with different symptoms and different preventive measures.
The risk of cancer in women increases as they age. However, specific preventive measures can help in reducing the risk.
One of the most common cancer types in women is breast cancer. It originates when the cells in the breast start multiplying abnormally. Breast cancer is considered to have the best survival rates if detected at the initial stage.
The risk factor of breast cancer includes increasing age, family history, exposure to radiation, obesity, having delayed pregnancy or no pregnancy, early onset of menstruation, menopause at older age, and postmenopausal therapy.
The best preventive measures are regular self-examination of breasts, frequent screening of breasts post 40 years, having an active lifestyle while maintaining a healthy weight, and consuming a healthy diet. Postmenopausal therapy must be strictly avoided.
Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix, which is in the lower part of the uterus and connects to the vagina. The human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, is one of the major factors that may cause cervical cancer. Other risk factors may include smoking, a weakened immune system, and exposure to miscarriage-prevention drugs.
The most effective ways to reduce the risk of this cancer are receiving the HPV vaccine, practising safe sex, and avoiding smoking. Further, in case of suspicion, one must take a pap test.
Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries located on both sides of the uterus. In some cases, it may also start in the fallopian tubes. The risk factors of this cancer may include older age, inherited gene changes, family history of ovarian cancer, being overweight, and postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy.
There are no standard preventive measures for this cancer type. However, two things that can reduce the risk are – taking birth control pills with a doctor’s consultation and discussing risk factors with a doctor depending on family history or taking a cancer screening to know if there is any probability of developing this type.
Uterine and Endometrial cancer
Uterine cancer starts in the tissues of the uterus. There are two primary types of uterine cancer: endometrial cancer, which is common, and uterine sarcoma, which is rare. In endometrial cancer, cancer cells form in the endometrium, the lining of the uterus.
The risk factors of endometrial cancer include obesity, weight gain, metabolic syndrome, Certain genetic conditions, such as Lynch syndrome, and increased exposure to estrogen. Additionally, uterine sarcoma is associated with increasing age, precisely 60 years and more. Past exposure to radiation therapy of the pelvis is also considered a risk factor for this cancer type.
Staying physically active and maintaining a healthy weight can decrease the chance of having other risk factors, such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
Other cancers in Women:
Apart from the above cancers, certain cancers are specific to women, like Vaginal and vulvar cancers. Both these cancer type originate in the female genetic organs. However, these are rare cancer types.
Further, certain cancer types are common in men and women. Cancer types like Lung, Skin, and Colorectal cancer pose an equal risk to women as in men.
The bottom line
Certain cancer types are inevitable, although adopting preventive measures can reduce the risk of developing these cancer types. A few preventive measures may include:
Avoiding tobacco usage and drinking alcohol.
Maintaining a healthy weight.
Staying physically active on a regular basis.
Having a healthy eating pattern, which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limiting or avoiding red or processed meats, along with processed foods.
Protect your skin from UV rays.
Knowing family history and your risks.
Lastly and most importantly, having regular check-ups and cancer screening tests.
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