Cancer is one issue that nobody wants to talk about routinely, perhaps more OPENLY. Sometimes, it seems reasonable to pretend it doesn’t exist, or it won’t affect you, it’s exactly this attitude responsible for year by year increase in cancer rates. Dr. Monisha Gupta, Consultant, Gynae Oncology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh says, Cancer has been tightening its nose across India as recent reports bring to light some really staggering figures.
Do you know: About 40% of men and women in India will be diagnosed with cancer at some point of time in their life? This means about 14 lakh people are currently living with cancer and about 7 lakh are being diagnosed with cancer every year.
And the major contribution (about 40%) to this massacre has been from the state of Haryana.
According to National Cancer Registry:
For every two women diagnosed with breast cancer one dies of it, while every 8 minutes, one woman dies of cervical cancer. YES, YOU READ IT RIGHT.
So, what does all of this actually mean?
We all really need to give some serious airtime to the disease called CANCER!
Gynae Cancer- How can it happen to me? NO, it Can’t
The issue about Gynaecological cancers is: Our society (how modern it may be) is still not very comfortable to talk about gynae problems routinely. Our women still consider it a taboo and hesitate to consult a gynaecologist for any gynae problem, thereby delaying the treatment.
Sometimes it may actually become difficult for them to understand what is normal and what is NOT NORMAL about their body. To further add to this confusion, some of the symptoms associated with gynaec cancers are vague and thus, difficult to be appreciated.
So what to do?
The primary thing is to confide in your senses. In the event that you feel something isn't right, seek it.
The symptoms can be very non-specific like bloating sensation in the abdomen that is not diet related, discomfort or pain in lower abdomen and pain during sex.
Also, sometimes you might need to pee more frequently or might face problem in passing stools for a couple of days. Also, you may have bleeding in between your menstrual days or for older women, after having menopause.
For older women (sometimes for younger women too), a persistent itching in vulvar area (hair bearing area surrounding urethra, vaginal opening and anal opening) can be very discomforting. If ignored initially, (it) results in non-healing and painful ulcers.
The keynote is: Try to know your own body as better as possible with self-examination and with the help of routine check-ups (called as screening tests). And if you have any vague symptoms not going away easily, go and consult your doctor.
What Causes Gynaecological cancers and who can get it?
Women of any age can be affected by Gynaecological malignancy; however, there are surely some factors which can make a lady all the more 'high risk' than another.
These factors include increasing age, late childbirth, no breastfeeding, Family history of ovarian and/or breast cancer, exposure to hormones either naturally or with drugs, persistent infection with HPV virus (on pap smear test), lifestyle habits like smoking, lack of physical exercise and obesity.
Obesity now parallels to tobacco chewing as the leading modifiable risk factor for endometrial (uterine) cancer. Nearly 50% cases of endometrial cancer are caused due to obesity. And the tragic part is the majority of such women are still in their 30s, thus they end up losing their womb and ability to conceive further. It’s really SAD!!!
Another factor to consider especially for younger women is a relationship between cervical cancer and HPV virus.
About 99.9% of cervical cancer is caused by various types of HPV virus, most common being HPV 16 and 18 types. Eight out of ten women are infected with HPV virus at some point in time in their life. But just presence of infection is not sufficient to cause cancer. It is persistent infection with HPV virus for years that causes pre-cancerous changes in the cervix and ultimately leads to cervical cancer. This whole process takes about 10-15 years.
Thus, when a 45-year woman presents with cervical cancer, her process for cancer had already been started years ago. That’s why HPV vaccination for prevention of cervical cancer is recommended at a very early age of 9-14 years (that is before exposure to HPV virus)
How can we Avoid Gynae Cancers?
Lifestyle modifications have a major role to play in the prevention of gynaecological cancers.
First and foremost, every woman must know what is normal about her body and thus, needs to be vigilant about her health. Do not ignore any symptoms, even if they are embarrassing and don’t seem like much. If the symptoms are persistent, go and see your doctor. Early diagnosis is the sole key for the proper and definite cure of cancer.
Regular physical activity and weight management is not only important for mental well being but also a key to keep cancer at bay. As mentioned above, obesity is a major risk factor for uterine cancer, thus, maintaining proper BMI (body mass index) with the help of healthy diet and regular exercise is a must.
HPV vaccination is very effective against cervical cancer and is highly recommended for girls between 9-14 years (to be maximum benefitted). However, it can be taken up to 45 years of age. It should be very clear that despite being vaccinated, it is very much essential to still undergo regular pap smear testing as HPV vaccine covers HPV 16 and HPV 18 which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer. 30% still remain uncovered and thus, needs screening.