Gender can play a vital role in making one susceptible to certain ailments. This HerHaleness article will introduce you to the types of cancer that affect women due to their unique anatomy, and help you understand each in brief.
Cancer is a disease wherein the abnormal cells divide uncontrollably. This causes them to invade other tissues and spread to other parts of the body through lymph and blood system. Cancer is a term used to define more than 100 types of diseases. When the living cells of the body divide uncontrollably, they grow and invade other areas of the body, leading to the formation of tumors. Not all tumors are cancerous, and are classified as either benign or malignant in nature.
Benign tumors are those that can be surgically removed and may never come back again. They also normally do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are the dangerous lot, that are cancerous and spread to other parts of the body. When they spread from one part of the body to another, it is called metastasis.
Cancers that Mainly Affect Women
There are various cancer types that can affect a woman. These are –
- Breast Cancer
- Cervical Cancer
- Endometrial Cancer
- Gestational Trophoblastic Tumor
- Ovarian Cancer
- Uterine Cancer
- Vaginal Cancer
- Vulvar Cancer
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women aged between 40 to 55 years. The most common form of breast cancer is ductal cancer (cancer of the tubes that carry the milk from milk-producing glands to the nipples). Then comes the lobular cancer that begins in the lobules (milk-producing glands). One needs to detect breast cancer as early as possible to increase the chances of survival. Carrying out self breast examination monthly and getting regular checkups done by a doctor is essential. Remember, all women are at risk of developing breast cancer and over 70% have no identifiable risk factors.
There are over 11,000 women in America who develop cervical cancer, and about 3,700 lose their lives in the battle. There are over 90% of cervical cancers that develop in the lining of the cervix. The glandular tissue, also known as adenocarcinoma, forms about 5 to 9% of the cases. Adenocarcinoma is divided into different types―endocervical cell type, endometrioid cancer, clear cell carcinomas, and adenosquamous carcinomas. Small cell carcinoma and cervical sarcoma are two rare types of cervical carcinoma. It is usually transmitted sexually. Human papillomavirus is said to be the main causative agent. You need to get regular PAP smears conducted to screen out cervical cancer. All sexually active women with multiple sex partners need to have a PAP smear done annually. In case of women in long-term relationships with one partner, the need for testing may not be as often, especially after getting a negative test for three continuous years.
Endometrial cancer develops in the uterus, in the inner lining. Adenocarcinoma forms about 75% of the cases pertaining to this cancer type. Abnormal uterine bleeding that varies from insignificant staining to hemorrhage, is a sign of endometrial cancer. One may also experience pain in the pelvis, back, legs, bladder, or during intercourse; being the significant signs of this disease.
Gestational Trophoblastic Tumor
The abnormal growth of tumors in the uterus may form cancer. This cancer is associated with abnormal pregnancies, and is among the four gestational cancer types. The hydatidiform mole or the molar pregnancy, invasive mole or chorioadenoma destruens, gestational choriocarcinoma, and placental-site trophoblastic disease are the four types of tumors that may form.
Ovarian cancer is the fourth largest cause of death in American women; one in 70 develop it, and one in 100 women die from it. Epithelial carcinoma is the most common form of ovarian cancer that develops on the cells covering the surface of the ovary. There are five major types of epithelial carcinoma―serous, mucinous, endometrioid, clear cell, and undifferentiated carcinomas. The other two major kinds of ovarian cancer are germ cell tumors (affecting the eggs) and ovarian stromal tumors, that arise from supportive tissue. The ovarian stromal tumors are very rare. There are no symptoms associated with the early stages of ovarian cancer, and by the time cancer is detected, it may have reached the advanced stage.
Vaginal cancer is one of the most rare form of cancer and affects about 2,000 women in America per year. The squamous cell tumor that develops in the surface of the cell lining of vagina is the most common form. The other vaginal cancers are glandular tissues, melanoma, sarcomas, and endodermal sinus tumor. The main cause of vaginal cancers is human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus associated with genital warts.
Cancer of the uterus is called the uterine cancer. Endometrial cancer is a type of uterine cancer. Uterine carcinoma that has characteristics of cancer in tissues and carcinoma, that is cancer of the cell lining. Uterine adenosarcoma is a rare form of cancer in the endometrium and may have cancerous as well as non-cancerous tumor cells.
The vulvar cancer is cancer that develops in vulva. It is a very rare form of cancer with only 4% women having it in America. When detected in its early stages, vulvar cancer is highly curable.
You need to get regular physical checkups done to diagnose cancer as early as possible, especially, if you have a family history of cancer―breast cancer and cervical cancer. If you have any doubts regarding any form of cancer, be sure to ask a doctor for help.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a replacement for expert medical advice.