Doc Talk: Different Types Of Cancers

We all have medical questions that we want answered – that’s why Dr. Amna Asif is here to provide us with her expert opinion! Every other week, she will be sharing her expert advice with us regarding a range of topics our followers are interested in learning more about. This week in Doc Talk, she answers frequently asked questions regarding breast cancer awareness month, and the different cancers for which one needs to raise awareness for during this month. Keep reading to find out more:

Do you know that October is breast cancer awareness month? The pink ribbon reminds us of that, and to be more vigilant for our friends and family members by raising awareness about breast cancer and other gynaecological cancers. It is also the time to familiarise ourselves and promote screening for  cancers of the uterus, cervix and ovaries. Wearing a pink ribbon means you are promoting education about these cancers, raising funds and supporting the cancer survivors. Let’s explore a few different types of cancers that fall under this umbrella:

Breast Cancer

Do you know that Pakistan has one of the highest rates of breast cancer? The reason for that is a general lack of awareness and resources for breast cancer screening, despite it being the most common type of cancer in women worldwide.  

This is how you can decrease your risk:

  1. Doing monthly self breast examinations 2 to 3 days after the end of periods
  2. Getting regular mammograms after the age of 40-50 years. Mammogram is a special X-ray which can detect changes of breast cancer at a very early stage, even before it is palpable. It leads to early diagnosis and management of cancer, which results in a good survival rate. 

If the cancer is limited to the breast, 96% of patients will be alive five years after diagnosis;  this figure excludes those who die from other diseases. If the cancer has spread further, your chances of survival decrease rapidly 

SKMCH recommends yearly mammograms from the age of 40 years. Other developed  countries recommend Mammogram from the age of 50 years every 2-3 years. Whatever  recommendation you follow, having a mammogram is better than no  screening at all.  

Symptoms of Breast cancer include a lump in breast or armpit, change in breast or nipple skin, nipple discharge or turning in, skin of the breast dimpling, ongoing breast pain or change in the size or shape of breast. 

Risk factors for breast cancer include: Increasing age, family history, a past of non cancerous breast conditions, genetic factors , starting first period before the age of 12 and being older than 30 at the birth of the first child or not having children. Being overweight and lack of exercise also increase your risk. 

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer is the second most common cancer in Pakistan. It is also called “The Silent Killer”. There is no screening test available for this type of cancer. Ovarian cancer can remain silent until the advanced stage of cancer and chances of survival are very low if diagnosed  at a later stage. Because of the position of the ovaries, this cancer can also involve many organs very quickly.  

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague and include abdominal discomfort or bloating,  abdominal distension, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, and vague urinary or bowel symptoms.  

Risk factors include increasing age (more common after 50 years of age), family history, onset of periods before the age of 12, menopause after age 50, obesity and infertility. Please discuss with your doctor if you have these risk factors and symptoms.

 Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the cancer of the cervix, which is in the lower part of the uterus. Risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking and HPV (Human Papillomavirus)  infection.  

About 5,601 new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed annually in Pakistan (estimates for  2018). It ranks as the 3rd leading cause of female cancer in Pakistan. It is the  2nd most common female cancer in women aged 15 to 44 years in Pakistan. 

Symptoms of Cervical cancer include vaginal bleeding between periods, heavy or prolonged periods, pain and bleeding during intercourse, bleeding after menopause and lower abdominal pain.

The best prevention for Cervical cancer is to get the vaccination for HPV virus .  

HPV vaccine is available in Pakistan and all girls should receive the vaccine at age 12 onwards.  In developed countries, regular screening for Cervical cancer is available from age 25 years till age 65-70 years, for all women who have ever been sexually active.  

The Cervical Screening Tests are called Pap smear (every 2 years) and HPV screening (every  5 years). In Pakistan, there are no screening programs and it’s integral that you discuss  this with your doctor/gynaecologist beforehand.

Lets wear The Pink Ribbon this month and raise awareness for prevention of these cancers in Pakistan. Let’s join hands to support all the Brave Cancer survivors.

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