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5 Common cancers affecting women

cervical cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer,oncology


After cardiovascular disease, cancer is the second-highest common cause of death in India. In cancer, the cells in our body grow and divide uncontrollably. The ailing cells have the potential to form tumours, impair the immune system and cause other changes. These changes hinder the body in functioning in a regular, healthy way.

The mortality rate of cancer is largely affected by late diagnosis. In recent years, several companies have developed new screening devices to tackle this problem.

As per a report published in Cancer India, the top five cancers in women account for 47.2 per cent of all cancers in India. 

The hopeful part is that most of the cancers can be cured if detected and treated at an early stage. Realising the early signs and symptoms of the disease and possible risk factors will help you stay informed and alert about your health.

The five most common cancers in women in India are:

1. Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in India and worldwide. The prevalence rate of breast cancer is 25.8 per 100000 women in India. This figure may rise to 35 per one lakh women in 2026, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)

Most breast cancers appear in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple. Some cancers start in the glands that make breast milk. After initial self-examination, you can detect breast cancer via ultrasound, mammogram, MRI or a biopsy.

If you haven’t already been screened for breast cancer, remember: early detection is the key to a successful treatment. Thus, it is important to be aware of all possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer, along with the potential risk factors.

Signs and symptoms

  • A mass or lump in or near your breast or armpit
  • Pain in the breast, nipple or armpit
  • Breast skin dimpling (like an orange peel)
  • Red, inflamed or thickened breast skin
  • Change in breast size or shape
  • Sunken or inverted nipple
  • Nipple discharge

Causes and possible risk factors

  • Personal or family history of breast cancer
  • Having dense breast tissue
  • Early age menstruation and late menopause
  • Older women, generally over 50 years
  • Obesity combined with low physical activity
  • Having your first child after 30 and not breast-feeding

Also, Read: What to Expect When You Are Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

2. Cervical cancer

When cancer develops in the cervix of a female, it is termed as cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, which connects the body of the uterus to the birth canal (vagina). In India, it is the second most common cancer in women. Rural women are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer than their urban counterparts.

The majority of the cases of cervical cancer are attributed to the HPV (human papillomavirus) infection. It is a sexually transmitted infection which is usually preventable with a vaccine.

Cervical cancer often goes undiagnosed for extended periods in Indian women, delaying cancer treatment. It is important to consult a doctor on experiencing any of the following symptoms associated with cervical cancer.

Signs and symptoms

  • Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Vaginal discomfort or bleeding after sex
  • Foul-smelling or blood-stained vaginal discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal and pelvic pain

Causes and possible risk factors

  • Early marriage and sexual activity
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Taking birth control pills for a long period
  • Frequent childbirths
  • Reproductive tract infection
  • Weakened immune system

Also, Read: Cervical Cancer – All You Need To Know

3. Oral cancer

Oral cancer is among the leading cancers in females in India. It is defined as a cancer of the lips, mouth and tongue. On the whole, oral cancer accounts for around 4 per cent of all the cancers diagnosed annually. Approximately 80 per cent of this cancer is owing to tobacco use.

If you experience difficulty in swallowing or soreness around the throat for more than two weeks, then immediately visit a doctor for proper diagnosis. Other signs and symptoms of oral cancer are:

Signs and symptoms

  • Any sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within 14 days
  • Discolouration of soft tissues of the mouth
  • Tenderness or lump anywhere in the mouth or lips
  • Any abnormality in the mouth that easily bleeds when touched
  • Unexplained bleeding or numbness in the mouth
  • Chronic sore throat and husky voice
  • Difficulty in speaking or moving the jaw or tongue

Causes and possible risk factors

  • Smoking (Tobacco users are 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer)
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Family history of cancer
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Get HPV Vaccinated at the CK Birla Hospital Now!

4. Ovarian cancer

The female reproductive system contains two ovaries – one on each side of the uterus. Ovarian cancer is found in the ovaries. It is the fifth most common cancer in women.

The majority of ovarian cancers are diagnosed late due to no or fewer symptoms in the initial stages. 

Let’s learn some possible early ovarian cancer symptoms that will help in early detection of this cancer.

Signs and symptoms

  • A feeling of fullness in the abdomen
  • Urgent or frequent need to urinate
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Pelvic discomfort

Causes and possible risk factors

  • Family history of cancer
  • Older age
  • Inherited gene mutations
  • Early age menstruation and late menopause
  • Obesity

5. Lung cancer

Lung cancer has been on an increasing trend among females in recent decades. Though smokers are at the greatest risk of developing lung cancer, surprisingly, it has also been rising among young, non-smoking women. 

As per a report in Biospectrum India, lung cancer accounts for 8.4 per cent of all common female cancers. To detect the disease as early as possible, you need to be aware of the symptoms of lung cancer.

You should consult a doctor when you show any of the following symptoms:

Signs and symptoms

  • A persistent cough that gets worse
  • Shortness of breath with activity
  • Coughing up blood
  • Wheezing
  • Chest, arm or shoulder pain
  • Extreme fatigue and tiredness
  • Frequent pneumonia-like symptoms

Causes and possible risk factors

  • Smoking (cigarettes, beedis, e-cigarettes, cigars, hookahs)
  • Workplace exposure to cancer-causing chemicals like asbestos, chromium
  • Indoor burning of coal
  • Air pollution
  • Radon gas
  • Personal/family history of cancer

In closing

Cancer is a fatal disease which often gets unnoticed in the early stages, especially among women. Women tend to bear and ignore the mild pains and symptoms their bodies experience as a normal work-related strain. Thus, it becomes increasingly important to be vigilant towards your health to identify this deadly disease in its initial phase. 

The bottom line is to gain knowledge about the initial symptoms of cancer that will help in early diagnosis. Additionally, knowing about the possible causes and risk factors of common cancers in females will help in preventing them to some extent. Further, treatment options like chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy are available and decided by the oncologist, depending on the stage and type of cancer.

Stay informed; stay healthy!

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