World Cancer Day: Risks related to Gynaecological cancers and how to take prevention
Cancer is a term used to describe diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues. It is not a new disease and was first described in Egypt as far back as 3000 BC, although the word cancer was not in existence then.
Hippocrates who is considered the father of Medicine used the word Cancer first in the history. According to Greeks, Cancer is used to refer to a crab, it is interconnected with a disease because of the finger-like spreading projections. Earlier, treatment to cancer was very difficult, almost next to impossible. However, due to upgradation in Science and technology, it has become more easier to prevent/cure cancer in affordable ways.
As a gynaecologist some of the questions that I am asked frequently are: Doctor what are the common cancers that can affect a woman? Will my condition turn into cancer – i.e premalignant conditions? How can I reduce my risk of cancer? Does cancer also be passed in future generation because of genes?
What are the most common cancers that afflict Indian women?
Breast, Colorectum, Ovary, Cervical, Oral cancer and Lip are the most common ones in Indian Women.
However, Cervical cancer was one of the most common cancer type in India. But recently, Breast cancer has overtaken cervical cancer especially in the metros, for reasons poorly understood.
This is the most common cancer in Indian women and accounts for 27% of all cancers in women. About 1 in 28 women are likely to develop breast cancer during their lifetime. In the urban areas the incidence is 1 in 22 as compared to the rural areas where 1 in 60 women develop breast cancer. The incidence begins to rise in the early thirties and peaks at the age of 50 – 64 years.
How can I reduce my risk? Can breast cancer be prevented?
The cause of breast cancer is not known. Hence it is not known if it can be prevented completely. Studies have found a direct link between Breast cancer in women and Diet and exercise regime. Although, women who exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, do not smoke and have a low intake of alcohol may also become a patient for Breast Cancer. Also, women who breast feed are also at a lower risk of breast cancer.Breast cancer cannot be prevented however if it is detected early it is easier to treat. However, breast exams are no longer a part of the screening recommendations because research does not show they provide a clear benefit.
The incidence of cervical cancer in India is 22.86% making it the second most common female cancer in India. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for cervical cancer and It gets transmitted through sexual contact. Rural women are most prone to it and Muslims’ women are last on the list.
How can I reduce my risk? Can cervical cancer be prevented?
isk of cervical cancer can be used by using condoms, not smoking, getting regular Pap smears done, being vaccinated against HPV virus and avoiding multiple partners.
Cervical cancer most often is preceded by a pre-cancerous stage. For detection, there are preventive screening tests such as the Pap smear and HPV test. It is easier it stop it in a pre-cancer stage.
The HPV vaccine is now widely available and accessible, it can be cured to prevent the risk of cervical cancer. Teenage girls are mostly advised to get vaccinated.
Cervical cancer does not transmit genetically and hence it doesn’t get pass on to other female member of the family.
The incidence of ovarian cancer in India is between 0.9 – 8.4/100,000. The risk starts increasing from age 35 and reaches a peak between the ages of 55 – 64. The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. The risk is increased after the age of 50, it can run in families with a history of ovarian, breast and colorectal cancers, personal history of breast cancer, endometriosis, being overweight, fertility pills continuously for more than one year also increase the risk. Factors that reduce the risk are a full term pregnancy before the age of 26, birth control pills used for 3 – 6 months or more and tubal ligation or sterilization.
We live in a world full of stress and pollution. Most of the women tend to take up alcohol and cigarettes. They do not get time to workout regularly or maintain their diet properly. This is the sole reason, why are women being more prone to these cancers. So, all those quotes like “Health is wealth”, “treat your body like a temple” etc are true for keeping your body away from these diseases which have to potential to cost you your life.
Remember most importantly, that prevention is better than cure and especially in the case of cancers, some of them are curable if caught early in the disease.
Dr Prathima Reddy MBBS, MRCOG (London), FRCOG (London), FACOG (USA)
Director – Fortis La Femme, Richmond Road Bangalore
Chairperson – Medical Council Committee – Fortis La Femme, Richmond Road
Senior Obstetrician and Gynaecologist