Gynaecological cancers are among the top diseases afflicting women across the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 94,000 women were diagnosed with this type of cancer between 2012 and 2016.
Gynaecological cancer is an umbrella term that covers all cancers that develop in or on a woman’s reproductive organs and genitals, including the cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, vulva, vagina, and uterus. These include cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and vaginal and vulvar cancer.
- Reducing Your Risk of Developing Gynaecological Cancers
Reducing Your Risk of Developing Gynaecological Cancers
Gynaecological oncology specialists say that age, genetics, lifestyle, and nutrition play a role in the development of gynaecological cancers.
Although you can’t stop ageing or change your genetics, there are tips you can follow to reduce your risk for gynaecological cancers. These include:
Consult your gynaecologist about getting the HPV vaccine
The human papillomavirus or HPV is one of the top causes of gynecological cancers, including cervical, vaginal, and vulvar.
You can protect yourself against these ailments by getting the HPV vaccine.
The HPV vaccination is recommended for children aged between 11 and 12 but can be given starting at the age of nine. A two-dose schedule is followed, with the dosage administered six to twelve months apart.
The vaccine can also be given to both male and female teens and young adults between 16 and 26 years old. However, the specialist will need to administer three doses to provide the patient with protection against the cancer-causing HPV infection.
If you are already 26 years of age or older, ask your O&G if you can still get vaccinated. This is because the vaccination is not recommended for most people older than age 26 years since exposure to HPV is already high and the benefits are lower.
However, you can still get the vaccination if your specialist recommends that you do so.
HPV vaccination prevents new infections caused by the virus. However, it does not treat existing diseases. This is the main reason why the vaccine works best when given before the patient is exposed to HPV.
Schedule regular pap tests
Cervical cancer is the only type of gynaecological cancer that has a screening test—the Pap test.
Pap tests or pap smears detect precancerous and cancer cells on the cervix. If left undetected and untreated, these cells can turn cancerous and cause cervical cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, most invasive cervical cancers are found in women who do not get regular pap tests.
Because of this, health experts recommend getting regular pap tests once you turn 21 or become sexually active.
The frequency of screening is different for each person. Your specialist will discuss the best schedule for you.
Smoking, including second-hand smoke, causes several types of cancer, such as lung, esophagus, stomach, and gynecological cancers, such as cervical, ovarian, vaginal, and vulvar.
This unhealthy habit damages nearly all organ and organ systems in your body, including your reproductive system.
When you quit smoking and minimize your exposure to second-hand smoke, you reduce your risk of developing cancer, even if you have been smoking for years.
If you want to quit smoking now, consult your specialist about strategies, products, and aids that can help you kick this unhealthy habit.
Improve your lifestyle
Having a healthier lifestyle can help improve your chances of reducing your risk of developing gynecological and other types of cancers.
Here are some tips for improving your lifestyle that can help you become healthier and protect yourself from cancer:
Be more physically active.
A previous study showed that getting regular exercise can reduce the risk for at least 13 types of cancers. This is because when you work out frequently, you maintain a healthy weight and regulate your hormones.
Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of workout weekly. If you can’t or are unable to engage in sports, go for a 30-minute walk daily for five days every week to get the right amount of exercise.
Have a balanced diet.
Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and other nutrients, substances that help protect your body against cell damage. These foods also contain fewer calories, helping you manage your weight.
During meals, fill your plate with at least two-thirds of plant foods and limit your consumption of red meat and processed, fatty, and sugary foodstuff.
Get at least seven hours of sleep every night.
Having a healthy immune system allows you to keep different ailments at bay, including cancer. Aside from eating nutritious foods and working out regularly, you can strengthen your immunity by getting plenty of sleep.
Studies show that people who do not get enough quality sleep tend to have weaker immune systems and are more likely to get sick. To stay healthy, get at least seven hours every night.
When you make these lifestyle changes, you can improve your overall health and avoid various ailments, including cough and colds.
Know the warning signs
Recognising the common symptoms of gynaecological cancers and consulting your gynaecologist immediately when you detect them can help you get a formal diagnosis and the treatment you need to stop them in their tracks.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is best to see your doctor as soon as possible:
- Recurring abdominal or back pain
- Irregular vaginal bleeding or discharge
- Recurring pelvic pain or pressure
- Sudden changes in your bathroom habits, such as frequent urination, diarrhoea, and constipation
- Itching or burning of the vulva
- Changes in the colour of and rashes, warts, and ulcers on your vulva that doesn’t seem to be disappearing
Share your family history with your specialist
Studies show that five to ten per cent of all cancer types are considered hereditary. If you have a family or personal history of cancer or precancerous conditions, you are at greater risk for this disease.
Tell your O&G or general practitioner your family and health history. Your specialist may recommend you undergo genetic testing to check if you are in the high-risk category for certain cancers.
An example of genetic testing you may undergo is checking if you carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. If you have them, you are at risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
Also, if you already experience the symptoms mentioned above, do not feel embarrassed to share them with your doctor, even if they are not recurring.
By being mindful and observant of your body, improving your lifestyle, and seeing your O&G regularly, you can keep gynaecological cancers at bay and be healthy.
Fredrick Little is a freelance healthcare blogger and copywriter. He is currently a student of biology and biomedical engineering attending North Carolina A&T. He has a passion for fitness inspired by his own 100+ pound weight loss journey. Fredrick wants to make the world a better place, one post at a time