We are at constant battle with cancer every day, and it is often an uphill battle. The good news is, more and more battles are being won. However, we need to be aware which type of cancers hit women the hardest and what needs to be done to avoid, treat, and even cure them. Here are five of the most common cancers that strike a good number of women in Singapore.
1. Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer any women may face in her lifetime. It can occur at any age, though the risk increases as you age. Because of certain factors, some women are more prone to developing the disease than other. However, every woman should know what it is and what can be done to prevent and treat it.
Symptoms: Early signs of breast cancer can be detected through self-examination. Breast cancer signs may include change in the shape, size, or texture (puckering or dimpling) of the breast, abnormal discharge (with or without blood) from the nipple, a lump in the breast or in the underarm area, and red, swollen skin on the areola or nipple.
Screening: Clinical breast exam (CBE) and mammogram done at an oncologist from Singapore should be done once a year even to women who appear healthy. Remember that the purpose of a screening test is to detect breast cancer at its earliest stage, before any signs and symptoms start showing up.
Treatment: Depending on the stage of your cancer, how far it has spread, and its location, your Singapore oncologist may perform a surgery—breast-conserving, modified radical, mastectomy, or total mastectomy—in conjunction with a therapy—chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy. The therapy will help kill any remaining infected cells that were not eradicated through surgery and help reinforce the cancer treatment.
Reduce Your Risk: Like any other cancer, there’s no sure way to prevent breast cancer. However, there are a few things you can certainly do to lower your risk. For example, physical activity, body weight, and diet are linked to breast cancer, so make sure to manage these factors well to stay in good health and shape. If you have strong family history of breast cancer, discuss with an oncologist Singapore about genetic testing for mutations in your genes that can cause the development of breast cancer.
2. Ovarian Cancer
Often lethal, this type of cancer is hard to detect as it mimics the symptoms of less serious illnesses. Ovarian cancer is more common in women over the age of 50, but can also affect younger women.
Symptoms: This type of cancer shows very subtle symptoms, such as abdominal discomfort, backache, feeling of fullness, bloating, and weight loss, so women often don’t go to see a doctor until symptoms occurs more frequently and the disease has spread further in the body.
Screening: The earlier the cancer is detected, the better chances for recovery. However, ovarian cancer is hard to detect when it is in its early stage. Many times, patients with ovarian cancer show no—or very mild–symptoms until the disease is in advanced stage. Currently, there are no screening tests for ovarian cancer, but can still be detected through rectovaginal exam, blood test, and ultrasound.
Treatment: Ovarian cancer is often treated with a combination of treatments, most commonly surgery and chemotherapy. The type of surgery, however, depends on several factors such as the stage of cancer, patient’s preferences, possible side effects, and whether the patient is planning to have children. Take time to learn more about your cancer treatment options by discussing them with your Singapore oncology consultants.
Reduce Your Risk: Taking oral contraceptives decreases the risk of ovarian cancer, especially for women who have been using them for three years and more. Women who have been using (or have used) birth control pills for more than five years have about 50 percent lower risk of developing the disease. Hysterectomy and tubal ligation can also reduce chances of developing ovarian cancer, but Singapore health experts suggest that these operations should only be performed for valid medical reasons—not for preventing ovarian cancer.
3. Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which spreads through sexual intercourse. Most women’s bodies are capable of fighting this infection. However, for some, it leads to cancer. If you smoke, have multiple sex partners, or are HIV infected, you’re at higher risk for developing cervical cancer.
Symptoms: Usually, precancerous lesions aren’t accompanied with symptoms. However, once the cancer has thrived, you may experience bloody discharge and irregular bleeding between periods (although these can also be caused by some other factors).
Screening: Pap tests, tests that will detect irregular cervical cells, must be done once a year with a Pap smear, and every two years with a liquid-based test. If in case you got an abnormal Pap test result, HPV testing must be done.
Treatment: Fortunately, most abnormalities linked to cervical cancer can be detected by screenings and treated before the disease aggravates and spreads to other organs. For low-grade change, your oncologist Singapore may order a colposcopy to examine closely your cervix. If test results show high-grade changes, you’ll undergo colposcopy and your doctor may have to collect a sample specimen of your cervical tissue for biopsy. If lesions are larger, your specialist will likely recommend a cone biopsy, which requires taking of large amount of cervical tissue for in-depth examination. A combination of treatments, such as surgery with radio therapy and/or chemotherapy, may be done depending on how advanced your case is.
Reduce Your Risk: Regular Pap test is essential for prevention of cervical cancer. And of course, HPV vaccines will protect women against the types of HPV that can cause most vaginal, vulvar, and cervical cancers. However, regular Pap tests are still required for women who are vaccinated with anti-HPV.
Cancer is the leading cause of mortality in Singapore. However, if we have enough knowledge about the disease and know how to prevent and treat it, it’s not impossible to recover from any critical situation we may be in.