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Are women more affected from cancer than men in India?

By Dr. Meenu Walia in Medical Oncology

Sep 19 , 2022 | 3 min read

A study published in the prestigious journal Lancet Oncology reveals that while men report a 25 percent higher incidence of cancer than women worldwide, India shows the opposite. Indian women are more prone to cancer than men if data is to be believed. Most Indian women tend to ignore their health issues until it becomes problematic, which is one of the major reasons cancer incidences in women are higher than in men in India, reversing the global trend.

Check Out - Cancer Introduction

Common Cancers in Indian Women

Here's a look at the most common cancers in Indian women and what you can do to reduce your risk.

  1. Breast Cancer

In our country, 1 in 28 women are likely to develop breast cancer during their lifetime, and for every two newly diagnosed women, one dies of it.

Consult a doctor if you find any abnormality in your breast, such as:

  • Lump or thickening in the breast

  • Nipple secretions

  • Changes in the nipple's appearance

  • Nipple tenderness

  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin

The general screening guidelines for breast cancer in women are as follows:

  1. Age 20 and above: Regular breast self-examination every month.

  2. Age 30 and above: Periodic clinical breast examination every three years.

  3. Age 40 and above: Regular mammograms every year.

  1. Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the most preventable one of all cancers, and yet, we lose one woman every 8 minutes to this disease in our country. It is the 2nd most common cancer in women.

Consult a doctor if you have:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding that occurs between regular menstrual periods, after sexual intercourse, douching, or a pelvic exam or after going through menopause.

  • Menstrual periods that last longer and are heavier than before

  • Increased vaginal discharge / Foul-smelling discharge

  • Pelvic pain

  • Pain during sex

The general screening guidelines are:

  1. <21 years old: No testing required

  2. 21-30 years old: Pap test every three years

  3. 30-65 years old: Pap test every three years, or Pap test and HPV co-testing every five years

  4. >65 years old: No testing is needed if there are no abnormal results for the past ten years

Cervical cancer is caused by infection with human papillomavirus or HPV. Fortunately, two vaccines are available against cancer-causing HPV strains that can prevent cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancer. HPV vaccination is recommended for girls between the ages of 9 and 26.

  1. Gynecological Cancers

Ovarian cancer is the third most common gynaecological cancer in Indian women. In fact, India has the 2nd highest incidence of ovarian cancer globally. Gynaecological cancers occur in the female reproductive organs, including the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina and vulva.

While each gynecologic cancer has its own individual symptoms, every woman must stay alert to abnormal changes in her body and report these to a doctor at the earliest.

  • Bloating and abdominal discomfort

  • Change in bowel habits

  • Indigestion

  • Tiredness

  • Weight Loss

  • Loss of appetite

  • Increase in abdominal size

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Swelling of the leg due to a deep vein thrombosis

How to Prevent from Cancer?

So, what should every woman do to reduce their risk?

Before we delve into the dos and don'ts, we must understand that cancer is more of a lifestyle-related disease than genetic! It is estimated that 35–50% of cancer cases worldwide can be prevented by controlling the risk factors. The need of the hour is to aim for a holistic approach towards building our lifestyle around the "4 Rights" that can help us keep cancer at bay.

  1. Eat right! Consume a plant-based, low carb, low fat, and high-fibre diet. Avoid red meat and processed food.

  2. Work right! Be physically active every day. Include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine as a general goal.

  3. Maintain the right weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for cancer and several other diseases, so maintain an optimal BMI and a healthy physique.

  4. Follow the proper habits.

    • Avoid alcohol, but if you drink, limit your daily intake to one drink per day.

    • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke too.

    • Stay stress-free. Make quality sleep a priority. Practice safe sex to protect yourself against HPV infection.

    • Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution.

    • Plan pregnancy timely and breastfeed to lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

    • Get regular health check-ups (screening) for cancer.

Your life is not to be taken for granted, especially with the increasing incidence of cancer in women. Going for cancer screening once a year after the age of 40 years is highly suggested to detect and get treatment for this disease at an early stage.

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