Exploring Lesser-Known Women’s Cancers: Looking Beyond the Pink Ribbon

Women are susceptible to cancers, each with its challenges and impact on health. While breast cancer is the most widely recognized, women may also face other, less publicized cancers. These include cancers that specifically affect female reproductive structures or occur more frequently in women.

To enhance outcomes for women’s health and address these lesser-known cancers, it is crucial to focus on awareness, research, and medical advancements. By understanding these cancers, we can better equip ourselves with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about prevention and treatment.

Here are a few types of cancer to be aware of:

Endometrial Cancer, sometimes known as uterine cancer, originates in the layer of cells forming the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium.

  1. Symptoms and Causes: Although the exact cause is unknown, the symptoms include vaginal bleeding post-menopause, pelvic pain, and bleeding between periods.
  2. Risk Factors: Various factors such as hormonal imbalance, longer duration of menstruation, obesity, advanced age, and never having been pregnant can elevate the risk.
  • Prevention: Following a consultation with a physician, hormone therapy after menopause, birth control pills, and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce cancer risk.
  1. Diagnosis and treatment: Pelvic exams, transvaginal ultrasound, and hysteroscopy are a few ways to diagnose endometrial cancer. Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are among the common treatment methods.

Vulvar Cancer typically presents as an itchy bump or sore on the vulva. This type of cancer is most diagnosed in older women, but it can affect people of any age.

  1. Symptoms and causes: Some of the most common symptoms are persistent itching, pain, and tenderness, bleeding without menstruation, skin discoloring, and lump-like formation. While the exact causes are not known, doctors say cancer develops when a cell develops changes in its DNA.
  2. Risk Factors: Increasing age, exposure to HPV, smoking, and weak immune system are among few of the risk factors that cause vulvar cancer.
  • Prevention: To minimize the risk of vulvar cancer, one must reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections such as HPV.
  1. Treatment: Treatment choices for vulvar cancer vary on factors such as the cancer type, stage, and location, alongside one’s general health and personal preferences.

Cervical Cancer remains one of the significant cancers due to its strong association with HPV. Since cervical cancer may not exhibit signs at first, routine tests are a must to keep yourself checked.

  1. Symptoms: Include increased menstrual flow, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding after sexual activity or in between periods, and pelvic pain.
  2. Risk factors: Smoking tobacco, having numerous sexual partners, STIs, weak immune system is a few of the high-risk factors that can lead to cervical cancer
  • Prevention: Receiving a vaccination to prevent HPV infection may reduce your chances of contracting cervical cancer. Having routine pap tests is also recommended.

Vaginal Cancer consists of cell growths that originate in the vagina. The cells can penetrate and kill healthy body tissue because of their rapid multiplication.

  1. Symptoms: At first there may not be any identifiable symptoms, however as it grows, it can show symptoms such as vaginal discharge, painful urination, and constipation among others
  2. Causes: Vaginal cancer initiates when cells within the vagina undergo alterations in their DNA.
  • Risk factors: A few risk factors that can cause vaginal cancer is increasing age, exposure to HPV, and smoking.
  1. Prevention: Regular pap tests and pelvic exams are a must to lower the level of risk. Additionally. HPV vaccines are also beneficial.

Early detection is crucial for successful cancer treatment among all. We should pay attention to our bodies, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and prioritize preventive measures like vaccinations and routine screenings. If you find any irregularities in your body, you must consult with the doctor. We should move beyond the focus on breast cancer and broaden the scope of research for lesser-known cancers among women.

 

Dr. Sandeep K S- Consultant-Medical Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre, Kalburgi

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