Women’s Health: 4 Cancers That Affect Only Women

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Breast cancer is the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Pakistani females. Contrary to popular belief, breast cancer is not limited to women. Even men can be inflicted with this dangerous disease.

Breast cancer awareness is growing rapidly all over the world. Aggressive marketing campaigns are being launched to educate women on self-examinations and encouraging them to get regular screening tests. On the other hand, there are some other cancers affecting women’s health which although less frequent can also prove deadly in the long term

Gynecological cancers occur in the female reproductive tract, for which it is necessary to understand the structure of the female reproductive organs.women's health 1

  • Uterus (Womb): Pear-shaped structure in the lower abdomen, in which a baby grows during pregnancy
  • Cervix: Lower part of the uterus
  • Ovaries: Ovaries are located on either side of the uterus. Ovaries release eggs into the uterus
  • Vagina (Birth Canal): Tube-like structure connecting the uterus to the outside of the body
  • Vulva: Outer part of the female genital organs

1. Cervical Cancer

Women at Risk:

Those who are over the age of 30 and have given birth to three or more children. Other risk factors include smoking and prolonged use of oral contraceptives.

Alarming Signs:

Unusual vaginal bleeding (especially after sexual intercourse) or discharge.

Confirmation of Diagnosis:

Cervical cancer is diagnosed after microscopic examination of cervical cells through Pap smears or tissue biopsies.

2. Endometrial Cancer

Women at Risk:

Those who are above the age of 50. This cancer is often common in menopausal women. Other risk factors include obesity, scanty periods, and estrogen therapy.

Alarming Signs:

Abnormal vaginal bleeding with or without pain/pressure in the lower abdomen.

Confirmation of Diagnosis:

Endometrial cancer is diagnosed after microscopic examination of endometrial cells through tissue biopsies or transvaginal ultrasounds.

3. Ovarian Cancer

Women at Risk:

Those who are above the age of 40 years and/or have never given birth. Other risk factors include a genetic predisposition, especially if other family members had breast cancer or gynecological cancers.

Alarming Signs:

Abnormal vaginal bleeding with pain/pressure in the lower abdomen. Often women feel bloated and complain of a change in bowel habits.

Confirmation of Diagnosis:

Ovarian cancers are diagnosed by radiological imaging, such as transvaginal ultrasounds in combination with blood testing of cancer markers like CA-125.

4. Vulvar/Vaginal Cancer

Women at Risk:

Women of all ages may suffer from these cancers, although HPV infection and cigarette smoking have been established as risk factors.

Alarming Signs:

Abnormal vaginal bleeding or changes in the vulvar skin.

Confirmation of Diagnosis:

These cancers are diagnosed through tissue biopsies followed by a histopathological examination.

Preventive Measures

Preventive measures for all gynecological cancers include avoidance of risk factors, most importantly smoking and obesity. Use of the HPV vaccine has proven effective in reducing rates of cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers, and is highly recommended for sexually active young women.

Women should contact their gynecologist if they experience any of the alarming signs mentioned above and have regular pelvic examinations even without symptoms.

According to the American College of Gynecologists, annual pelvic examinations are essential for all women above the age of 21.

With the advancement of medical technology and research, the prognosis of gynecological cancers has improved over the years. Nevertheless, cancer is a detrimental illness which has long-term effects on the patient’s physical, mental, and social well-being.

In order to combat these cancers, we need to arm ourselves with the correct information. This will enable us to overcome diseases, and regain control of our body and health.

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