The Big Cs – Cancers of Cervix and Breast

Breast cancer is the most commonly detected cancer found in women in India, followed by cervical one worldwide. If not diagnosed early,  these malignancies prove fatal for many women. But now, improvements in screening and therapies for cancer have boosted the survival rates substantially.

Both of these diseases are preventable and entirely curable with vaccination and regular tests. Since very few people have knowledge about it, it is important to spread awareness about their symptoms, risk factors, and prevention.

Cervix cancer spreads through the genitalia via a virus, while malignancy in the breast is a result of uncontrolled cell growth in the breast due to abnormal gene mutations. 

Due to the nature of the cancer disease, if not treated, the abnormal growth spreads to other organs of the body, affecting their functioning. Let us try to understand how women can prevent these deadly diseases, their early symptoms to look out for, and the screening process. 

Breast Cancer

The Symptoms

Although cancer doesn’t show any symptoms to the patient in the early stages, the first noticeable one is a lump or growth in the breast. A mammogram of the chest can, however, detect every growth even before the patient can feel them.

Following are the most common indications of cancer, though they can be non-cancerous too.

  • A local lump or thickening that seems new
  • Persistent pain in the breast or armpit
  • An inverted, disfigured nipple
  • Nipple discharge, maybe blood
  • Nipple rash
  • A change in size or shape of a breast
  • Skin problems on the bust, such as scaling, flaking, or peeling

 

Tumors and lumps can be benign too. On noticing any of the above symptoms, get yourself screened with a gynecologist. 

Risk factors for breast cancer

Following are the plausible causes and risk factors that may make one more susceptible to the disease. You can curb some of them but all of them are not in your control. However, with regular check-ups it is possible.

Genetics

Cancer is a gene mutation and studies have shown that the abnormality can get carried over generations. If your blood relatives mother, grandmother or sister, etc have had the disease it puts you in the high-risk bracket. Regular screening is mandatory. However, it doesn’t mean you will get it. 

Hormones exposure 

Women who have taken hormonal supplements around pregnancy or menopause are at high risk. 

Alcohol

Drinking every day makes the breast tissue thicker and increases the risk of malignancy. Additionally, the thick tissue makes it difficult to detect in tests. If you have a family history as well, consult your doctor about how much you can safely drink. 

Late Menopause and Early Menses

It is related to hormones only. Early start of periods ( at 11  or 12 years) and late stopping of periods ( menopause) both raise the risk. 

Late Pregnancy

Never getting pregnant/ delivering or Getting pregnant after 35 puts the mother in the high-risk category.

Breast Implants

Synthetic breast implants make it difficult to notice abnormalities. Also, the growth does not become visible in mammograms. Though it does not cause malignancy, because of late detection, causes more fatalities. 

Cervical Cancer

The Symptoms

Very early stages have no symptoms. The initial symptoms include

  • Bleeding from the vagina after sex
  • Bleeding in between periods or even after menopause
  • Pain in the pelvis and painful sexual intercourse
  • An abnormal vaginal discharge  

 

Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer

Cervix malignancy  is a sexually transmitted disease, Hance unusual and unprotected sexual activities put the women more at risk than others, including:

  • Multiple sex partners- the more the mire, greater is the risk
  • Starting sex life at a very young age also puts girls in the high-risk bracket
  • History of STDs such as gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, etc. 
  • Low immunity is a factor because the body can fight mild infections without any treatment.
  • Smoking tobacco is linked to squamous cell cervical cancer.

Prevention

It is easy to safeguard yourself from Human Papillomavirus because there is a vaccine available. Dr. Shivani Bhutani says that Eva Hospital has a vaccination facility. She advises girls from 12 to 26 years of age to get it. It also protects against other HPV virus-inflicted diseases, she says. Also, make a yearly appointment for a PAP Smear. It is most important to practice safe and protected sex by using male or female condoms.  Avoid smoking and talk to your doctor about quitting.

Conclusion

With regular screening and vaccination, malignancy can be detected early and completely treated bringing down the fatality rate. Awareness is the key